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BT 

EASTER!^ 

WINDOWS 


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BY THE ATJTHOE OF 
SIX BELLS OFF JAVA 


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BY 

EASTERN 


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WINDOWS 

THE STORY OF A BATTLE 
OF SOULS AND MINDS IN 
THE PRISON CAMPS 
OF SUMATRA 

BY 

WILLIAM H. McDOUGALL, jR. 


NEW YORK 

CHARLES SCRIBNER’S SONS 

1949 


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Copyright, 1949 , by 
WILLIAM H. McDOUGALL, Je. 


Printed in the United States of America 

All rights reserved. No part of this book 
may be reproduced in any form without 
the permission of Charles Scribner's Sons 

A 



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To My Sister 
JEAN 


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iwsy'i'?; 



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CONTENTS 


CHAPTER 


I 

The Other Side of the Door 

1 

II 

Roll Call 

i 6 

III 

Ode to Phoebus 

25 

IV 

Dysentery and Palembang Bottom— No 
Relation 

37 

V 

Charitas 

49 

VI 

We Keep Holy the Sabbath Day 

58 

VII 

Just Another Day 

76 

VIII 

New Year Inventory 

95 

IX 

Barracks Camp— Harbinger of Evil Days 

109 

X 

Verities: Mundane and Eternal 

120 

XI 

The Reckoning 

131 

XII 

The Saga of Eric Germann 

140 

XIII 

Out of the Bangka Straits 

156 

XIV 

McDougall’s Bedroom & Morgue 

167 

XV 

Malaria 

175 

XVI 

How Men Starve 

18; 

XVII 

The Beri-Beri Song 

203 

XVIII 

Building for the Payoff 

214 

XIX 

How Men Die 

225 

XX 

Christmas Comes Again 

252 


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viii 


CONTENTS 

CHAPTER 


XXI 

Belalau 

26c 

XXII 

Let's Go Smuggling 

276 

XXIII 

Ubi Raiding 

303 

XXIV 

By Eastern Windows 

311 

XXV 

New Brews in Old Bottles 

322 

XXVI 

Return 

336 


Index 

345 


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BY 

EASTERN 

WINDOWS 


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Locale of Author’s Prison Years in Indonesia 

Palembang Jail — April 5, 1942-January 1943 
Barracks Camp (in city of Palembang) January 1943-September 1943 
Muntok Prison — September 1943-March 1945 
Belalau — March 1945-September 19, 1945 


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The Other Side of the Door 


O LD Blinker rolled his head on the slab-like 
concrete platform where he lay dying in Mun- 
tok Prison hospital Christmas Eve, 1944, and 
asked, '‘When does the music begin?” 

“Pretty soon now,” I said, stepping from the floor up onto 
the platform beside him. “The choir is being counted 
through the gate.” 

“Good,” said old Brinker, cracking his last joke, “then Pll 
be able to compare them with the angels.” 

His face was a grey blur in the feeble light which barely 
reached this corner of the room from the distant kerosene 
lamp. 

“Afraid the angels won't sing as well,” I said, “because 
they won’t have Father Bakker to lead them.” 

Despite his exhaustion and the pain it cost him, Brinker 
chuckled. Father Bakker, a soft-voiced little Hollander with 
a Vandyke beard, was the choir director. 

When Japan had invaded the Netherlands East Indies in 
February, 1942, Father Bakker had been pastor of the 
Catholic church in the harbor town of Muntok on Bangka 
Island, some 250 miles south of Singapore— just below the 
equator and off the east coast of Sumatra. Muntok Prison 
was an old pile of stone and iron built by the Dutch in a pre- 
vious century to house life-term native prisoners and, after 
many years, abandoned and converted to a warehouse for 
Bangka’s foremost crop, white pepper. The Japanese had 

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reconverted the prison to its original use and interned there 
hundreds of Allied nationals including Father Bakker; 
Brinker, a rubber plantation inspector, and me, an American 
war correspondent who now worked in the prison hospital. 
Death rapidly was thinning our population. 

The dying Brinker, whose mother tongue was Dutch and 
for whom English was difficult, gathered his strength to 
speak again. 

‘Ask Father Bakker to come and see me . . . after- 
wards.” 

I evaded a direct answer. Father Bakker wouldn’t be lead- 
ing the choir tonight. He was ill himself, lying in his cell 
shivering with malaria. 

“I’ll ask him to dedicate a song to you,” I said, feeling 
Brinker’s pulse. “Got any special request?” 

“Silent Night.” 

“Okay,” I said, stepping down off the bench, “I’ll tell 
him.” 

The dysentery ward where Brinker lay, like the other six 
wards in Muntok Prison hospital, was a long, narrow room. 
Two cement platforms, or benches as we called them, eight 
feet wide and sloping from head to foot, ran its entire length 
on either side of a central aisle. Men lay shoulder to shoul- 
der, fifteen and sixteen to a bench, their feet toward the 
aisle. Patients tended to slip downward because of the slope. 
Attendants were busy readjusting sick men on the benches 
and answering pleas for bedpans. 

I walked outside to catch a breath of fresh air and to watch 
the choir. Eleven emaciated singers, tottering remnants of 
a once splendid twenty-six voice a capella chorus, had just 
filed through the gate which barred the hospital from the 
main prison. A Japanese guard had counted them through. 
Now he waited, bayoneted rifle at rest, in the shadows of 
the tropic night. 

The singers stood in a semi-circle of light halfway along 
the covered cement walk onto which all the wards opened. 


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At the rear of the middle ward a Dutchman and an English- 
man stood on a platform erected on one of the benches so 
that their heads would be higher than the tops of the parti- 
tions separating the wards and their voices thus could carry 
through the entire hospital. A wire mesh extended from the 
top of each partition to the ceiling. They were to read, in 
their respective languages and a verse at a time, the gospel 
story of the birth of Christ. Three years before. Father 
Bakker had set St. Luke’s words to music of his own com- 
position and his choir had sung it each Christmas Eve since. 
The same two announcers also had done the reading: Beissel 
von Gymnich, who once had been our chief cook; and huge- 
barrelled, black-bearded W. Probyn Allen, of the ringing 
voice and Gargantuan laughter, who once had helped me 
edit the prison “newspaper.” 

The substitute choir director sounded key of C on his 
pitch-pipe and pointed his baton. Singers hummed their 
respective notes. The humming grew in volume, reflecting 
off walls which acted as sounding boards and lent their sing- 
ing the deep, sustained quality of organ tones. The buzzing 
of voices in the hospital ceased. Beissel’s voice, then Allen’s, 
rang through the wards. 

And it came to pass that in those days there went 
out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that the whole 
world should be enrolled. This enrolling was first made 
by Cyrinus, the governor of Syria. And all went to be 
enrolled, every one into his own city. 

Allen stopped speaking, the director’s baton pointed up- 
ward, swept down and the sacred cantata began. 

The delirious mutterings of a malaria patient sounded 
from a bench nearby. This was the fever ward. From the 
next ward came bubbly groans of beri-beri victims whose 
lungs were filling with serum as they literally drowned in 
their own juice. Beri-beri is a malnutritional disease that 
takes one of two courses, depending on what complications 


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accompany it. The victim either swells with liquid or 
shrivels to skin and bones. From the dysentery ward came 
sounds of bedpans banging on concrete, reminding us that 
dysentery patients, although they were trying to be quiet, 
could not wait. 

The story continued, Beissel speaking first, then Allen. 

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the 
city of Nazareth into Judea, to the city of David, which 
is called Bethlehem: because he was of the house and 
family of David, to be enrolled with Mary his espoused 
wife, who was with child. 

Allen stopped speaking and the choir took up the words. 
I knew Father Bakker could hear them where he lay in 
a cell across the yard in the opposite wing of the building 
which held the hospital. After he was interned Father 
Bakker had organized the choir from among his fellow pris- 
oners, transforming their heterogeneous and mediocre 
voices into one superb instrument of song. Many pieces, like 
the Christmas cantata, were his own compositions. Every- 
thing the choir sang was his own arrangement. It had to be 
because when he was thrust into jail he went with only the 
clothing he wore. His beloved music was left behind. He 
wrote his music on whatever scraps of paper he could find 
and composed without instruments in the babel of a place 
so crowded that men lived and died, elbow to elbow, cheek 
to jowl. Father Bakker's mind was instrument enough. 

And it came to pass, that when they were there, her 
days were accomplished, that she should be delivered. 
And she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped 
him up in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; 
because there was no room for them in the inn. 

Directly at Allen's feet lay a dying man who had been a 
police official in Sumatra before the war. I first met Officer 


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5 

Francken in a hill station of western Sumatra, April 2, 1942, 
the night after I was captured for the second time. 

With other shipwreck survivors cast up from the Indian 
Ocean I had been added to a cortege of Dutch civilian resi- 
dents of southwestern Sumatra who were being rounded up 
for internment on the other side of the island. Glumly we 
were trying to find space on the floor to sleep when Francken 
was added to our numbers. He was loaded down with luggage 
which had not yet been searched. As soon as the guard left 
the room Francken opened his luggage, laughed and pulled 
out a bottle, and another bottle, and another. 

“Drink up,” he shouted. “Drink up! Tonight we must 
laugh because it may be a long time until we can laugh 
again.” 

Later he asked me, 

“Mr. American,”— I was the only American in a crowd of 
Hollanders— “you are a correspondent?” 

“That’s right. United Press.” 

“Someday you will write a story about this?” 

“Perhaps.” 

“If you do, write that Francken gave you your last drink 
of cognac on your last night outside of jail.” 

He handed me a bottle containing just enough for a 
final drink. I held it aloft in salute, then drained it and re- 
turned the empty bottle, saying, 

“Okay, pal, you will be immortalized in print.” * 

And there were in the same country shepherds 
watching, and keeping the night-watches over their 
flock. And behold an angel of the Lord stood by them, 
and the brightness of God shone round about them, 
and they feared with a great fear. 

* Francken is not his real name, nor is Brinker the real name of the 
other dying man. Because of their families I have used fictitious names 
for certain men whose stories appear here. Wherever a pseudonym is used 
it will be indicated. My fellow prisoners who read this book will easily 
recognize the men described. 


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I thought of the fears that plagued these men around me 
as they lay, many knowing that this was their last Christ- 
mas. What do men think of when they are about to die? 
I knew what I thought when I myself was about to die be- 
cause I had waited one whole afternoon— conscious and 
with a clear mind— for certain death, only to be saved by 
my own private miracle. And I had nursed and watched 
die of starvation and disease more than two hundred men 
in this chamber of horrors for prisoners of war. 

I came to believe that, although every individual has 
thoughts peculiar to his own conscience, there are certain 
basic thoughts shared by most men when they, irrevocably, 
face their Great Common Denominator, Death: What 
and Who await them on the Other Side of the Door? 

Take old Brinker, who wasn’t really old in years, only 55, 
but was physically old with the premature age of a lifetime 
in the tropics. 

As a youth fresh out of school he had come from Holland 
to the Indies in search of fortune. Now he was lying there 
totaling up the score, balancing the is with the might have 
been. During his early years there had been lonely periods 
of exile in jungle outposts; and later, easier, more convivial 
years in the restricted white colonial society of little Sumatra 
towns that were trading centers and clearing houses for 
rubber or tea or coffee or tobacco. Hard work there had 
been on plantations, yes, but work wherein he moved on a 
higher plane than the brown-skinned natives around him. 
And, at the club in town, there was companionship and har- 
monizing over schnapps and beer. He had been so busy 
with the day-by-day things of life that he had lost track of 
time until suddenly thirty-five years had gone down the 
calendar and it was time for retirement. But a prison camp 
had interrupted his pension plans and accelerated his physi- 
cal decline. 

First had come fever. Malaria was not new to an old 
jungle hand like Brinker but malaria without quinine was. 


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Meanwhile, hunger sapped his vitals. His protein-and- 
vitamin-starved body broke out with blisters, then sores 
which deepened into ulcers on his hands, arms, feet and 
legs. So he progressed from the fever ward to the septic ward, 
and was grateful that he had been able to skip the beri-beri 
ward. However, when a few weeks ago he had been carried 
into the dysentery ward, he knew instinctively it was the end 
and he began to think about God. 

Drinker was a Catholic but it had been so easy to forget 
God during the pleasantly busy years away from Holland 
in the outposts of Sumatra. Sunday was the one morning of 
the week he could rise late, dawdle over breakfast and 
coffee and read the accumulated newspapers from Batavia. 
And when he did go to Mass the priest’s sermon too often 
included something which uncomfortably reminded Drinker 
of sin. He didn’t want to be reminded of sin. Damn such re- 
minders. So he stayed away. Life was too short not to have 
a little fun. 

How short they had been . . . the years . . . and the 
fun shorter still. Here in prison he couldn’t sleep sometimes, 
for thinking about the fun and the wasted Sunday mornings 
piled up on the red ink side of his bank account with God. 
He sent for Father Bakker and told him, 

“I’ve been away thirty years.” 

Then to Father Bakker he whispered his confession. 

Every morning after that a priest brought communion 
to Drinker in the dysentery ward. And, when I made my 
rounds of the wards, changing bandages and swabbing sores, 
and stopped at Drinker’s place, he had a smile for me in- 
stead of a sour look. That was quite a transformation for a 
man who had been one of my grouchiest patients. He could 
smile because his heart was calm. He was at peace inside. 
He figured that Father Bakker had turned for him the key 
to the kingdom of heaven. 

The music stopped again and Allen’s voice carried to the 
dysentery ward. 


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8 BY EASTERN WINDOWS 

And the angel said to them: Fear not; for, behold, I 
bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all 
the people; for, this day is born to you a Saviour, who is 
Christ the Lord, in the city of David. 

The hospital was singularly quiet now. Patients able to 
sit up might have been statues sculptured with bent heads 
as their minds projected them away from the prison, across 
the seas to home. Next after death, fears concerning their 
families dogged men most. For nearly three years their 
names had been on the lists of missing. Had they long ago 
been given up for dead? More than anything else, except 
food, men wanted their families to know they were alive. 

I felt sure, as the music filled my heart, that somehow my 
family must know I was alive. That prisoner of war post- 
card the Japanese had allowed each man to send two years 
ago must have gotten home. 

Please, God, let them know Pm alive. 

Again the music ceased and Allen's voice narrated the 
angel’s words to the shepherds near Bethlehem: 

And this shall be a sign unto you: You shall find the 
infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a 
manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a 
multitude of the heavenly army, praising God, and say- 
ing: Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to 
men of good will. 

Choral voices swelled. Climactic Hosannas rolled through 
the wards and resounded off concrete walls, then died. I 
told the director of old Brinker’s request for Silent Night. 
The choir sang it, alternating the verses in English and 
Dutch. 

Silent Night, Holy Night, 

All is calm, all is bright 

Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child, 

Holy Infant so tender and mild. 

Sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace. 


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9 

That ended the concert. Singers were marched back to 
the main prison. Gates were slammed and locked. I started 
for my own bunk in the hospital staff quarters. 

An attendant stopped me, saying, 

“Brinker wants a priest." 

At first I thought Brinker merely was requesting Father 
Bakker to visit him but the attendant said no, any priest. 

‘'He says he’s nearly finished." 

Walking across the court to one of the cells in the wing 
opposite the hospital I called a priest, Father Van Thiel, 
and accompanied him back to the dysentery ward. We 
stepped up on the bench and squatted on either side of the 
dying man. I held the kerosene lamp so Father Van Thiel 
could see. Yesterday old Brinker had declined to receive the 
last sacraments of his church, explaining, with a gesture 
indicating his fellow patients: 

“They’ll all say old Brinker is dying and I don’t want 
that." 

Now it did not matter what they said because it was the 
end. Father Van Thiel unscrewed the cap of a small silver 
vial containing blessed olive oil and smeared a tiny amount 
on his right thumb. He told Brinker to close his eyes while 
he anointed the lids and said a prayer in Latin that trans- 
lates, “Through this holy unction and His most tender 
mercy, may the Lord pardon thee whatsoever faults thou 
hast committed by sight." Then, repeating the same prayer 
but changing the last word to suit the senses of hearing, 
smell, taste and touch the priest rubbed oil, in a brief sign 
of the cross, on Brinker’s ears, nostrils, lips and the palms 
of his hands. 

When the last prayer of the rite, known as Extreme 
Unction, had been said Father Van Thiel thanked me for 
holding the lamp. As I stepped down from the bench and 
replaced the lamp in its customary wall holder I could hear 
him whispering prayers, in Dutch, to Brinker. 

Straightening my aching back I took a deep breath. Im- 


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mediately I wished I had not. Every cubic inch of the ward's 
foul air seemed to rush into my lungs— the odors of dysen- 
tery, the sickly sweet smell of beri-beri, the heavy stench of 
necrotic flesh on ulcerated limbs. If we who were used to it 
sometimes are nauseated, I thought, to a stranger the smell 
would be appalling. I hurried outside to breathe clean air, 
look up at the stars and pick out the Southern Cross. I 
could not see it and figured it must be too far down in the 
western heavens. So I tried to pick out Argo, the old sailing 
ship. I found the stars that are Vela, the sails; but I could 
not discern those that are the keel and hull. Either they, 
too, were below my horizon or Argo was too complicated 
for my simple astronomy. Sometimes I could find them and 
other times I could not. 

The scrape and clatter of wooden sandals— our prison 
footgear— along the covered walk aroused me from my star- 
gazing reverie and signaled that a new shift of ward attend- 
ants was going on duty, replacing those whose turn ended 
at midnight. 

I walked into the staff room, identical in construction 
with the wards. Each of us had a space twenty-seven inches 
wide on the long, concrete platforms. Some of us had built 
wooden frames in order to sleep level. Others, preferring the 
natural slope even though they did slide downward, spread 
their straw mats on the slabs. Mosquito nets were grey 
blurs in the darkness. I started to crawl into mine when a 
whisper from across the aisle halted me. 

''Mac." 

Eric Germann, the only other American prisoner and my 
partner and fellow worker, was calling. I stepped over to his 
bunk and sat on the edge of the bench. 

"Hold out your hand," he said. 

We fumbled for each other’s hands. In mine he placed 
a "tailor made” cigaret. Months before there had l^en a 
Red Cross issue— the first and last— of American cigarets. 
He had saved one for this occasion. 


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‘‘Merry Christmas," Eric said. 

We shook hands. I started up, to go after a light at the 
dysentery ward lamp, when an idea struck me. 

“We’ll really celebrate," I said. “We’ll use a match." 

One of my most precious possessions was a box of 
matches preserved, in a water proof tin, for emergency use. 
Opening the tin I struck a match for the first time in nearly 
three years. Its flare was blindingly welcome. Ceremoniously 
I lit the cigaret Eric had rolled for himself of nipa palm 
leaf wrapped around raw, native tobacco, then lit my own. 
We smoked in silence. 

I thought of another Christmas, the one that had started 
the series of adventures which landed me in Muntok Prison. 
On Christmas night, 1941, Pepper Martin and I put a Japa- 
nese floor guard to bed and a few hours later escaped from 
Shanghai. Pepper was United Press bureau manager and I 
was his assistant. With all other enemy nationals of Japan 
we became prisoners in China’s busiest city when the Japa- 
nese took over, the day of Pearl Harbor. 

To begin at the beginning: I resigned my newspaper job 
in Salt Lake City in 1939 and headed for the Orient where 
I figured there was going to be a war I might cover as a 
correspondent. My first stop was for ten months in Tokyo 
and a job on an English language daily newspaper. Next 
came Shanghai, where I landed in October, 1940, to join 
United Press. When war appeared imminent Pepper and 
I and Francis Lee, a former United Press man, began cast- 
ing around for means of escape should the Japanese occupy 
Shanghai. Chinese guerrillas agreed to send a man into the 
city for us. 

During the first week of Shanghai’s occupation the Japa- 
nese military police, called Kempeitaiy did not arrest news- 
paper correspondents. Like other American, British or Dutch 
nationals, we moved around at will inside the barricaded 
International Settlement. During the second week a few 


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correspondents disappeared. All would be arrested eventu- 
ally. We were getting jittery lest our turn should come be- 
fore the guerrilla guide arrived. Our jitters increased when 
a Japanese civilian guard was placed on our hotel floor to 
check on movements of Americans. Although he was an old 
friend and did little checking we knew our time was com- 
ing. Christmas night Pepper and I took the guard to dinner, 
filled him with Tom-and-Jerries, brought him back to his 
hotel post at midnight, saw him to bed and retired to our 
own room. The guide arrived a few hours later. 

That was splendid except for one hitch. We were broke 
and couldn't get the money we needed for the journey until 
daylight. There was one man who might have a large sum at 
four o'clock in the morning and be friend enough to lend it 
to us. We rode by ricksha to a church, awakened the priest 
and borrowed part of his Christmas collection. 

The guide told us we would have to pass the first set of 
barricades on our own and meet him at a village outside 
the city. Our plan involved play-acting three drunken Ger- 
mans staggering home from an all night party. Germans, 
being Japanese allies, had passes permitting them to cross 
the first barricades if they lived in suburbs outside the 
Settlement proper. We weaved up to a sentry box and went 
through a long, futile search of our pockets for the neces- 
sary identity cards. The bluff worked. Grinning, the guards 
waved us on. 

Our guerrilla guide was waiting in the village. The Shang- 
hai barricade was only a minor hurdle in our journey to 
freedom. From the village where we met the guide to Free 
Ghina was several hundred miles of Japanese-occupied terri- 
tory and two strongly guarded “lines." We were inside an 
iron triangle, formed by three railroads, of which Shanghai 
was the apex. We had to cross the base. The railroads were 
solidly barricaded their entire length and patrolled by 
soldiers and dogs. Beyond the triangle's base was a well- 
held highway between Hangchow and Nanking. Behind 


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THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR 13 

us, we knew, a search would begin as soon as we were 
missed. 

We traveled westward in freezing weather, by foot and 
sampan, until ten days after Christmas when, to the tune 
of gunfire and barking dogs, we crossed the highway and 
stumbled, dirty, hungry, and vermin-ridden, into Free China. 
Another twenty-four days travel brought us to Chungking 
and our next assignments from United Press. Mine was to 
fly immediately to Java and cover the battle for the Nether- 
lands East Indies. 

The battle was brief. As Java fell I fled in a ship which 
was sunk in the Indian Ocean. I reached Sumatra, the 
nearest land, after a long swim and six days in a lifeboat. 
Three weeks of hiking barefoot along Sumatra's jungle- 
fringed west coast brought me to a little harbor town where 
I had planned to obtain a native sailboat and, with some 
companions, escape and sail across the Indian Ocean to 
Ceylon. 

But the Japanese got me again, transported me across 
Sumatra to the oil port of Palembang, and put me in 
Palembang Jail the night of Easter Sunday, April 5, 1942. 

As I walked through the jail gates I glanced up, half 
expecting to see something written above them. There was 
an inscription in Dutch I could not read and a date, 
A.D. 1883. An alarm kept ringing in my brain, “Pm a pris- 
oner! Pm a prisoner!” 

I did not conceal my identity, hoping that news of my 
recapture would reach Tokyo and that I might be returned 
to Shanghai, or at least the Asiatic mainland, either for 
punishment or— wild expectation— repatriation when Ameri- 
can correspondents and diplomatic officials would be ex- 
changed for their Japanese counterparts. Once on the 
Asiatic mainland I hoped I could escape * again because 
I knew the ropes. Naturally, I said nothing in Palembang 

• The full story of my Shanghai escape, sinking and recapture is told in 
Six BeUs Off Java, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1948. 


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Jail about the Shanghai escape, merely gave my correct 
name and occupation, believing that the Japanese Foreign 
Office eventually would be informed of the capture of a 
correspondent. (How wrong I was!) 

After interrogation and registration on prison rolls, I was 
added to the tangle of men trying to sleep amid a welter of 
junk in a peculiarly smelly room. Without space on the con- 
crete floor to lie down, I sat in the doorway and dozed off 
while dreaming of escaping again. 

Now it was Christmas, 1944. All the dreams and plans of 
escape that had helped sustain my spirits through two years 
and nine months of imprisonment had every one been 
foiled. But I still schemed. Men without hope die. 

The cigaret Eric had given me for a Christmas present 
long since had been consumed as I sat on the bench in the 
dark staff room. Eric had lain down. By his silence I judged 
him either asleep or also reminiscing. Stiffly I rose from the 
bench, fumbled at my bunk until I found my tobacco and 
started for the dysentery ward and the lamp. I couldn’t 
afford another match. The attendant on duty was standing 
in the ward entrance. 

“How’s Brinker?” I asked. 

“I think he’s dead. I was just going to call someone to 
check.” 

I stepped up on the bench and felt Brinker’s pulse. No 
pulse. The attendant handed me the lamp and I looked 
into Brinker’s half-open eyes. Sightless. I touched the lids. 
Not a flutter. Listened for his heart. Not a beat. Squeezed 
hard with my fingers on the flesh of his upper arm. My 
fingerprints remained. Held a small hand mirror to his open 
mouth. Not a breath fogged it. 

“He’s dead all right,” I said, and stepped down to the 
floor. “Better call the doctor.” 

Sleepy-eyed, the doctor came, listened with his stetho- 
scope and told us we could carry Brinker out. We lifted 


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15 

the body onto a stretcher, carried it into the bamboo shed 
which served as a mortuary and put it into one of four 
plank coffins. One coffin already held the body of a man 
who had died just before the concert. The other two would 
soon be occupied, perhaps before the day was out. Officer 
Francken and two others were very low. 

Back in the staff room, lying on my bunk, I filled the time 
until sleep came by mentally constructing the framework 
of a book that would tell the story of this prison life. 

Today would be an appropriate place to begin, I thought, 
because it would be a kind of key to this other world far 
behind enemy lines, in a tropic backwash of war where men 
long believed dead were fighting a battle of souls and minds 
instead of bullets and bombs. 

But, before narrating how they won or lost in their 
struggles with their greatest adversaries— themselves — it 
would be necessary to explain how they got here and what 
they did. This would require switching back to the first 
morning of imprisonment when I awakened after dozing off 
in the cell doorway, dreaming of escape. 

And so I have , , • 


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2 

Roll Call 


D awn stirred the trees which made a dark 
horizon beyond Palembang Jail. The desultory 
voices of awakening birds sounded an ornitho- 
logical overture to the day— my first day of internment, 
April 6, 1942. Soon the sun peered over the east wall. Men 
emerged grumpily from their cells to stand in its early rays, 
hoping to melt from their flesh the imprint and from their 
joints the stiffness of hours on damp cement bunks and 
concrete floors. 

Night had washed the sky nearly clean of clouds, giving 
the sun full scope to kindle the day with brilliance. The 
impact of light, glaring off cell block roofs, walls and pave- 
ment walks threw every detail of the jail into sharp, painful 
relief. What had been concealed by darkness last night when 
I entered stood out this morning in harsh reality. 

Peaked tile roofs of buildings inside the prison were 
higher than the surrounding wall, so that its somber grey 
stretch was visible only in sections between the cell blocks. 
The wall looked about fifteen feet high and was surmounted 
by another six feet or so of barbed wire curving inward at 
the top like the fences around animal pits at the zoo. I was 
standing inside still another barbed wire fence, perhaps 
twelve feet high, which divided the hollow square of jail 
yard from cell blocks around it on three sides. The fourth 
side housed guardrooms, storerooms and the double iron 
gates to the outside world. 

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The cell where I had spent the night was one half of a 
two-compartmented building set in a corner of the main 
wall. Also, it stood apart from the long cell blocks on my 
side of the yard and was isolated from the nearest one by 
yet another private fence of its own. Between the building 
and the wall was an open-air bath tank where two men, 
their skin glistening wetly in the sun, were washing. Stand- 
ing outside the tank they dipped water with small hand 
buckets and splashed it over themselves. I stripped and 
joined them. The first bucketful was a cold shock; the sec- 
ond pleasantly cool; and the third a delight. We dried our- 
selves as swimmers do when they climb from a pool, skin- 
ning water from our flesh with the palms of our hands and 
letting the sun do the rest. 

Donning my scanty clothing— a pair of shorts and a shirt 
—I stood with other men looking through the fence into the 
yard where a square of grass made an oasis in this desert 
of barbed wire, stone and iron. A shaggy hedge grew along 
the narrow section of fence directly in front of our build- 
ing. I wondered aloud who had planted it and tended it 
during the years it must have struggled to survive in such 
inhospitable surroundings. 

“Women,’' said a scrawny, sarong-clad individual who 
had just emerged from the other half of the two-room 
building. 

“That’s exactly what I said,” he continued in reply to 
my look of incredulity. “Native women planted it. Female 
prisoners.” 

My informant introduced himself as an English merchant 
seaman and a veteran of Palembang Jail, having been there 
a week. He said he had been told this isolated cell block 
used to serve the dual purpose of jail clinic and women’s 
quarters. Female prisoners lived in the cell from which he 
had just come. The place where I had spent the night was 
the clinic. That explained a peculiar odor I had been won- 
dering about. 


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The hedge was high enough to have screened small 
statured Malay women from the gaze of men in the yard. 
A tiny patch of grass sheltered in its shadow. I stepped onto 
it, savoring its tensile crispness between my toes. Directly 
across the yard was the highest building inside the walls. 
Smoke rose from behind its steeply pitched roof and through 
its doors could be seen flames in open hearths. The kitchen. 

The sailor touched me on the shoulder, cleared his throat 
apologetically and in a half whisper, perhaps so other men 
standing around wouldn’t hear, asked, 

“I say, mate, have you any tobacco?” 

“A little.” 

“In that room are some sick men who haven’t smoked 
for days.” 

I followed him into the room from which he had come. 
Its interior was nearly filled by a knee-high cement platform, 
the width of the room and seven or eight feet deep, ending 
against the back wall. Six men lay shoulder to shoulder on 
it, their feet toward the door. Two other men lay on straw 
mats in the narrow floor space between the platform, or 
bench, and the front wall. The former women’s quarters 
now had been converted into the jail hospital. The sailor 
proudly announced his good news. 

“Here’s a gentleman will share his tobacco.” 

A chorus of appreciation filled the room. Three patients 
sat up immediately. One of them, a huge-barrelled fat man 
with a beard which recalled pictures of King Henry VIII, 
smiled and said, 

“Luckily for you, not all of us smoke.” 

A thin man with a doleful face and a “let-me-tell-you- 
about-my-operation” voice asked if by any chance I had 
some milk. 

“My ulcer must have milk,” he whined, “or my days are 
really numbered.” 

“Sorry,” I told him. “Tojo confiscated my cow.” 

“Well, then, I will appreciate a bit of your tobacco.” 


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19 

While distributing what remained of my tobacco and 
rolling a cigaret for myself I asked how it happened that 
all the patients were Englishmen. They said they were from 
ships sunk or captured off Sumatra's east coast while fleeing 
Singapore. The fat man, who looked to be in his early 
thirties and must have weighed 240 pounds, introduced 
himself as W. Probyn Allen, Far Eastern representative of 
an English drug firm. 

‘'I don’t smoke,” he said, declining tobacco, “but you 
may bring me a drink of water if you will.” 

I fetched my water bottle from next door. 

The sailor went outside to get a light, returned and 
lighted our cigarets. The first inhalation of smoke went 
down my throat like a rasp, searched out the empty crevices 
of my stomach where food should have been and dispersed 
comfortingly until it seemed to touch and bless every sensate 
fiber of my being. Thoughts of no more tobacco disturbed 
me, so I took only a few drags then sniped the cigaret for 
a final smoke after breakfast. 

At that moment a sudden clanging burst on my ears. 
Sound waves filled the jail with metallic racket, richochet- 
ing from wall to wall, bouncing off iron doors, battling with 
the sun’s glare for violent attention. When my neck un- 
shrank, my shoulders sank back to normal posture and my 
eyes opened, I stepped to the doorway and looked toward 
the front gate whence the clamor came. A Japanese soldier 
was rattling a metal bar around the inside of an iron triangle 
of the type familiar to American ranchers who for genera- 
tions have been summoned to meals by similar dinner bells. 
But, though the instruments were similar, the effects dif- 
fered. When the dinner bell rings outside an American 
ranch kitchen, the results are music in the mountain air 
because trees and open country soften the strident notes. 
In Palembang Jail every blow on the triangle hurled percus- 
sion waves onto hostile surfaces which magnified the sound’s 
intensity. When the last ear-shattering note splintered into 


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silence, my jumbled thoughts assorted themselves and 
asked why such clamor to announce breakfast. I learned it 
was not breakfast but the signal summoning prisoners to 
morning roll call. 

Men stood in double lines on the walks outside their 
respective cell blocks. The sergeant guard commander, 
flanked by two tin-helmeted soldiers carrying bayoneted 
rifles at ready and followed by a fat, sad-faced Dutch inter- 
preter, took the roll call. Counting began at the kitchen 
across the yard and proceeded counterclockwise around the 
jail toward the hospital which thus would be the last to be 
counted. Roll call followed a fixed ritual. As guards arrived 
in front of each cell block, prisoners bowed to them and the 
soldiers saluted in return. A leader for each block reported 
the number in his lines. Guards then verified the report by 
counting, after which captives again bowed and captors 
saluted. 

As we stood silently waiting our turn I studied the men 
within vision. About half wore only shorts. Some were 
barefooted, others shod. Their skins varied in hue from the 
deep coffee of the darkest Indo-Europeans up through many 
shades to the flat whiteness of sedentary business men whose 
chests had not felt an unobstructed sunbeam since they 
were children. Between those extremes were dark browns, 
light browns, yellow browns; tans from saddle to atabrine; 
whites from the healthy glow of youth to the tired, large- 
pored flaccidness of age. Since all were newcomers and thus 
only recently had taken to living shirtless, there were many 
assorted stages of sunburn, ranging from the delicate pink 
of a first blush to painful crimson. Nearly all necks and 
wrists had well defined rings marking collar and cuff lines. 
Physically the men ranged from thin to very fat; from short 
to tall; from runty, round-shouldered, pot-bellied torsos to 
the strong, virile proportions of a men’s underwear ad. 

One physical characteristic predominated. They were 
well nourished. Even the thin ones were thin in a natural 


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21 


way. Until interned, the thin ones had missed no more 
meals than the fattest man in line. I wondered how long 
they would continue to be well nourished. My misgivings 
concerning the future were deep and black. I thought it was 
going to be a long war and that many prisoners captured in 
the early stages would not be living at the end. For this was 
tropical Sumatra where fever and disease would thrive 
unless checked by constant medical care and proper nour- 
ishment. There was little likelihood of either in a Japanese 
prison. , 

Rainswept Sumatra straddles the equator and with other 
islands of the Malay archipelago divides the Indian Ocean 
from the South China and Java seas. A jungle-clad moun- 
tain chain sprawls along its thousand-mile west coast, on 
the southern tip of which my lifeboat landed; while the 
east coast is a vast, steaming plain of swamps and turgid 
water courses. Palembang lies at the inner edge of the 
swamps and fifty-four miles up the crocodile-infested Moesi 
river. Two great refineries of Shell and Standard Oil are 
near the city’s outskirts, at the termini of pipe lines from 
interior oil fields. Palembang also is a trading center through 
which move tobacco, tea, coffee, rubber, coal, palm oil and 
other bounties of nature that make Sumatra rich. 

Palembang was a city centuries before the Dutch arrived. 
Historians have pushed back the curtain of its antiquity 
to the Sriwidjayan Empire that flourished for nearly a thou- 
sand years until it was conquered in the fourteenth century 
A.D. by the Hindu Madjapahit Empire of Java. But the Mad- 
japahits crumbled and most of Java and Sumatra was con- 
verted to the religion of Mohammed. The Dutch arrived in 
the seventeenth century, obtained a concession in Palem- 
bang and converted it to colonial capitalism. In the last 
quarter of the nineteenth century the Dutch built high- 
walled Palembang Jail to hold native malefactors. The Japa- 
nese arrived in February, 1942, and in March they removed 


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22 BY EASTERN WINDOWS 

the native prisoners and replaced them with Dutch and 
British. 

Another notation was added to Palembang’s long history 
when the jail received its first American prisoner, me. Now 
I was being counted in my first roll call line. 

From that morning of April 6, 1942, when a crowd of 
well fleshed men answered ib first summons, to an August 
afternoon in 1945 when a group of shambling skeletons 
obeyed its last command, the roll call bell dominated my 
existence. It rang in the dawn of morning, at high noon 
and in the dark of night. It summoned men to stand in line 
for water, for food, for tobacco; for announcements, for 
meetings and for funerals . . . especially for funerals. 

The bell rang so frequently for so many different pur- 
poses in the various jails and camps where I lived until 
freedom came, that a bell code was necessary ... a certain 
number of rings for this, another number for that. First 
there would be an admonitory rattling as the metal ringer 
was twirled around the triangle . . . clangety-clang-clang- 
clang. Clangety-clang-clang-clang. A pause. Then the meas- 
ured strokes— one, two, three; or one, two, three, four; or 
one, two, three, four, five, six; or maybe only one. 

Quickly we came to anticipate, even to pray for, the 
routine calls— to collect food, to line up for boiled water, 
or tea, or a handful of peanuts, or a teaspoon of palm oil. 
Sometimes there were phenomenal, red letter, hallelujah 
days when we lined up for 100 grams (3V2 ounces) of sugar 
and 25 grams (less than an ounce) of salt per man. Such 
were the rings which regulated our lives down to the last 
detail. The unexpected rings were the ones which threw 
chills into us— the roll calls which rang in the night, sum- 
moning us from sleep to stand in the damp air during the 
long, exacting process of counting to determine who was 
missing, who had gotten out in a desperate smuggling en- 
deavor to find food and get back in again undetected. I 


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23 

was one of those who engaged in food-smuggling, but I 
managed always to get back in before roll call. Some did 
not. 

Sometimes the bell chattered angrily to announce an in- 
fraction of prison rules and sometimes it tolled slowly, 
signaling the grave gang to carry away another body. 

Roll calls had a sequence in avoirdupois and number as 
well as time, while the once well nourished men slowly 
changed from overweight to underweight, from under- 
weight to emaciation, from emaciation to skin over bones, 
eyes in skulls, caricatures, corpses. 

Cell block by cell block the guards counted their way 
until they came finally to the line in which I stood. The 
interpreter relayed the sergeant’s command. 

“Attention.” 

We came to attention. 

“Bow.” 

We bowed. The guards saluted. 

“How many?” asked the interpreter. 

“Twenty-three,” said a man on the end of the line. “Eight 
inside and fifteen outside.” 

The sergeant counted us outside then walked to the 
barred window of the hospital cell and peered at the eight 
men lying inside. Then he counted us again, calling the num- 
bers aloud in Japanese and stabbing his finger at us with 
each count: 

“Ic/ii, ni, san, shi, go . . 

Then the interpreter spoke again. 

“Attention.” 

The command was superfluous because we had been at 
attention all the time, but he had to say something. Oblig- 
ingly we straightened our shoulders even more and the 
interpreter said: 

“Bow.” 

We bowed again. Guards saluted, about-faced and 


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24 

marched to the front gate. One of them picked up the bell 
ringer and struck the triangle, then whirled the ringer around 
in a long, jangling rattle that bounced off walls and iron 
doors, violated my ear drums, convulsed hands into fists, 
propelled a shiver up to my scalp and prickled there until 
the ringing stopped. 

My first roll call was over. 


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5 

Ode to Phoebus 


I TURNED hopeful eyes toward the kitchen when 
roll call ended. Breakfast should be soon. Instead, 
however, there was a reshuffling of men to make 
room for more prisoners. My companions were removed 
from the room in which I had spent the night, leaving me 
alone with two chairs and a table covered with dusty, 
gummy bottles and tins of ointment— remains of the pre- 
war clinic. Claiming they had established prior rights, my 
erstwhile roommates took with them most of the junk 
which had littered the place. One thing they left, however, 
was a piece of jute sacking about ten feet long and half as 
wide. It would serve as a mattress until something better 
came along. I laid it out in the sun while I explored the 
area surrounding the bath tank. In a heap of rubbish I 
found a chipped, blue enamel dish with a small hole in the 
bottom, a handleless spoon and a half of a coconut shell 
someone had started to polish, then discarded when a tri- 
angular section broke off the edge. Poor as they were I now 
had eating utensils. The next thing was something to eat. 

Gates in the barbed wire fence were opened after roll 
call and men circulated at will inside the jail. I crossed the 
yard to the kitchen. It looked more like a foundry. Instead 
of stoves or ovens there was a row of round, open hearths 
on top of which sat huge, iron kettles or smoke-blackened 
containers which were large oil drums with the tops cut off. 

Long metal tongs and pokers and axes and saws hung on 
the walls. Smoke rose to the ceiling and theoretically escaped 

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through wide roof vents. The volunteer kitchen workers 
were nearly as smoke-blackened as the pots over which they 
labored. 

Tops of the steaming cauldrons were too high to look into, 
so I asked one of the cooks what was boiling. 

'‘Water/’ he said. 

“For coffee?” 

“We haven’t seen coffee since we came here.” 

“Then why boil so much water?” 

“Tea. We’re having tea for breakfast.” 

“And what else?” 

“Nothing.” 

“Nothing?” 

“Absolutely nothing else. Rice and vegetables haven’t 
arrived yet. Only the Japs know when they will and I doubt 
if they really know.” 

I left the kitchen, thinking how comforting it would be 
if, at times like this, we had cuds to chew on between meals. 

A group of white-robed men sitting on a wooden bench 
in front of a cell block attracted my attention. Walking 
over I introduced myself to the first man on the bench and 
met the Catholic Bishop of Palembang. 

“Pleased to know you,” he said. “Have you any tobacco?” 
“Not a shred,” I replied, thinking ‘this fellow is surely 
a fast operator.’ 

“Good,” smiled Bishop H. M. Mekkelholt, “then I can 
make you a present.” 

Fishing in his cassock he brought out the remains of a 
lempeng, the Malay name for a quantity of native tobacco 
fiber about the size and consistency of a shredded wheat 
biscuit. Pulling it apart he gave me half. I declined to take 
so much but he insisted, explaining, 

“Americans were most kind to me when I was in your 
country last year. This is a token of appreciation.” 

At that moment the Japanese sergeant guard commander 
strode up shouting angrily. He delivered a long harangue 


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most of it unintelligible; but the general idea was plain. I 
was an American and therefore in a special category of 
wickedness. My cell had been cleared so I could be kept 
in solitary confinement. I was to remain there and not 
mingle with other men. He seized my shoulder, turned me 
around and marched me back to my cell. It wasn't really 
a cell in the same sense of others in the jail because it had 
no sleeping platform and the door was an ordinary wooden 
one instead of a barred iron gate. 

He closed the door but did not lock it. After a while I 
walked to the barred window beside the door and looked 
out. Two guards were sitting at a table on the covered walk 
near the main gate but the sergeant was not in sight. I 
opened the door and walked out into the small area behind 
the hospital fence. A man was at the bath tank cleaning his 
teeth with a large, black stiff brush of a type not generally 
associated with teeth. 

“How does it taste?" I asked. 

“Inky," he replied. 

“Where's the typewriter it came with?" 

“In my cell. Fellow brought it in with him." 

The brush wielder, a sunburned man clad only in a pair 
of black shorts held up with a drawstring, introduced him- 
self. 

“Burt," he said. “Gordon Burt. Late of His Majesty's 
Engineers, Malaya." 

Burt was a gaunt but wiry New Zealander with little 
knots of muscle where they would do the most good. Thick 
black eyebrows and a hawk nose frowned over a stubby 
black beard. He finished his tooth-cleaning operations, re- 
moved his shorts and started splashing water over himself. 

“My third bath this morning," he shouted. “I can't get 
too much of this water." 

Burt said he was the only survivor of a group of British 
engineers who, on the last leg of a run from Singapore to 
Palembang, were chugging up the Moesi river in a launch 


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when they ran smack into a Japanese gunboat. That was 
their first intimation that Palembang had been captured. 
The launch was blown out of the water. Uninjured, Burt 
swam to shore, pulled himself up in the weeds and lay there 
until sundown. He hid for ten days in the jungle but hun- 
ger and mosquitoes finally drove him out. He waved down 
another Japanese river craft and was taken to Palembang, 
stripped naked and left for two weeks in a guardhouse cell. 
Finally, he was given the pair of black shorts he was wear- 
ing and brought to the jail. 

The clangety-clang-clang of roll call bell interrupted 
our conversation. 

'‘Food,” said Burt, “have to grab my dish and get in line.” 

He jumped into his shorts without bothering to dry him- 
self, dashed through the fence gate which was left open so 
men could use the bath tank, and ran toward his cell. But 
Burt’s food guess had been wrong. The bell did not signal 
dinner but rang to summon prisoners who had arrived the 
night before to claim their luggage. 

On arriving in Palembang we had been compelled to 
leave our luggage in the street where we had disembarked 
from a river ferry. The Japanese had promised it would be 
delivered to us later. We had not believed them but here 
it was. My luggage, acquired during three weeks of wander- 
ing on the west coast before the Japanese patrol found me, 
consisted of: 

One bicycle tire inner tube picked up on a hunch it would 
prove handy. 

Two bottles of beer. 

A small quantity of quinine. 

A bottle of iodine. 

Half a dozen paper-backed books found in the house 
where I met the Dutch policeman F’rancken who had the 
cognac. 

One mosquito net and two white bed sheets found in 
another house where I had spent a night. 


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29 

The mosquito net was wrapped around the beer bottles. 
The sheets, folded and knotted, enclosed the entire bundle. 

As each man claimed his luggage it was searched by a 
Japanese ofEcer. Knives and razors were confiscated. The 
officer and guards offered to buy any wrist watches prisoners 
were willing to sell. That surprised me. I thought they would 
simply take them. When the officer came to my beer bottles 
he held them up to the light, laughed and passed them 
to me. 

Enroute back to my cell I noticed that the door to a 
storeroom just outside the fence gate from the bath tank 
was slightly ajar. After depositing my bundle I returned to 
the gate, stepped through when guards were not looking, 
pushed open the storeroom door and slipped inside, leaving 
the door slightly ajar. The sliver of light through the door 
crack disclosed a pile of metal chains and leg irons and a 
small tin trunk. 

The trunk lid opened easily. Inside was clothing of the 
type peculiarly half eastern, half western, affected by many 
Malays who wear trousers on the street and sarongs in their 
homes. All the articles were too small for me, but a pair 
of white trousers offered the possibility of being cut down 
to shorts. Another garment, which looked like the upper 
half of a Mother Hubbard, would serve as a shirt. The next 
articles selected were a yellow Malay waist sash, two ordi- 
nary neckties and a tiny wooden container holding a stick 
of menthol. 

Closing the trunk I explored the room further and picked 
up a dirt-stiffened blanket and a bath water dipper. The 
trousers, shirt, sash and neckties I stuffed inside the dipper. 
Then I opened the door quickly, closed it behind me and 
stepped through the fence gate. A few days later I again 
visited the room, found the tin trunk empty and so appro- 
priated it to use for my growing possessions. 

Breakfast, lunch and dinner were served simultaneously 
in midafternoon. I joined the food queue of two hundred- 


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30 

odd men and after a seemingly interminable time held out 
my chipped enamel dish for the ration of rice and soggy 
vegetables. To my horror the dish was too small. The 
servers told me to return later for the remainder of my 
share. Precious liquid off the vegetables leaked out the hole 
in the bottom of the dish. I reproached myself for not hav- 
ing brought the broken coconut shell as well as the dish. 
Quickly I ate the meal and hurried back for more, but food 
servers only shrugged sympathetically and pointed to the 
empty food drums. 

That night, as I was lying on my sheets and gunny sack- 
ing, the door creaked open and a white robed figure slipped 
inside. 

“Good evening,” said a voice plainly in difiBculties with 
the English tongue. “I am Father Filing.” 

I rose from the sack and we shook hands. 

“How did you get here?” I asked. 

“They do not lock the fence gates until ten o’clock.” 

“What about the guards? You took a chance on coming 
in here.” 

“Took a chance?” he repeated. “What is that meaning?” 

I explained. He listened carefully, repeated the words, 
laughed, and said, 

“Thank you. What is life without taking chances?” 

We were friends from that moment. I decided it was a 
good time to drink the beer and Father Filing agreed, A 
heavy nail solidly impacted in the door frame solved the 
bottle opening problem. I filled the coconut shell nearly up 
to the break in the side and handed it to him. He raised it 
and said, 

“Your health.” 

I drank from the bottle. The beer was warm but had a 
pleasant bite. I asked if there were any Chinese in Palem- 
bang. 

“Many,” Father Elling said. 

“Do you know any who would help a foreigner?” 


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“If it is possible." 

I had unlimited confidence in Chinese courage and in- 
genuity. The right Chinese, I felt sure, could help me 
escape to the sea and a sailboat. 

Father Elling drank quickly, almost as if it were a draft 
of medicine. Months later I learned he disliked beer, I 
asked why he had drunk mine if he disliked it. 

“Because I was afraid you would be offended if I did not," 
he said. “You were so proud of the bottles." 

Next morning after roll call prisoners were ordered to line 
up in the yard, fully clothed, for inspection. Fully clothed 
meant shirts, shorts or long trousers and footgear of what- 
ever description we possessed. New Zealander Burt stood in 
line wearing only his brief, black shorts. A guard, through 
the interpreter, ordered him to go and get dressed. 

“I have nothing to put on," Burt said. “The blighters 
threw me in here just like this. Tell them I have no shirt 
or pants or even shoes." 

The guard commander swelled up and chattered angrily, 
A fellow prisoner offered to lend a shirt. 

“No," said Burt, “I want one of my own. They can give 
me a shirt if they will." 

The commander ordered Burt to borrow the necessary 
garment or be beaten on the spot. Burt capitulated but, 
because he was still barefooted, was ordered to change places 
with a man in a back row. 

During the verbal exchange we gathered that a high Japa- 
nese officer was coming to inspect us and we must put on a 
good appearance. After carefully scrutinizing the lines to see 
that all were properly clothed the commander ordered us 
to stand at rigid attention. We stood. 

Standing attention for prolonged periods can be torment. 
The sun climbed higher in the sky, probing our flesh with 
burning fingers as one hour passed, then two. Occasionally 
a man would faint, causing a small, welcome flurry of 
commotion as he was dragged from line and placed in the 


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32 

shade. A tall, lean, red-faced Dutch planter named Dyken 
began retching and vomiting with strained, painful noises 
that made us flinch. Conspicuous by the red trimming on 
his cassock and by the impassive dignity of his carriage. 
Bishop Mekkelholt stood among his priests. He seemed 
impervious to the sun, the jail and the Japanese. 

Toward noon the high officer arrived. Then I heard for 
the first time another sound which was to become part of 
the routine noises of prison life. The sound was a command, 
'‘kiotsukel” meaning ''attention!” and was bellowed by the 
gate guards whenever an officer appeared. While shrieking, 
they would present arms. The cry they uttered doing it 
sounded like a combination yell, snarl and vomit. When I 
first heard it, standing in line waiting for inspection, I 
thought Dyken was expiring with one long, horrid death 
rattle. Then I realized the officer had arrived. 

He came through the gate with a swagger that might 
have befitted Napoleon on a triumphant entry into Paris. 
His collar bore the single gold star of a major-general. 

"Kiotsuke!” shouted the guard commander at us. 

We stiffened our shoulders. 

"Bow,” commanded the interpreter. 

We bowed. 

The general surveyed us, slowly turning his head as his 
eyes traveled around the three sided square we had formed 
in the yard. One hand rested on his sword, the other hung 
straight down at his side. His polished leather boots 
clumped heavily as he walked leisurely around the inside of 
our lines. Aides hovered behind him. He paused in front of 
Bishop Mekkelholt, looked him over, asked the guard com- 
mander a few questions and walked on. Returning to the 
gate he stood for a moment watching us while we bowed 
again. He returned the bow with a salute, about-faced, 
clumped out the gate and the inspection ended. It had 
lasted perhaps five minutes. We had waited for it hours in 
the sun. 


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Back in my solitary cell I lay down to rest my aching 
back and legs and clear my head of sun dancing vertigo. 
Neither the aches nor the vertigo would leave. Presently 
the room became too cool and, shivering, I returned to the 
sun to get warm but instead I grew colder and the shivering 
increased. Someone had said there were two doctors in 
jail. I asked a passerby to fetch one and returned to my room 
and lay down. The dinner bell rang and I could hear the 
rattle and bang of tin dishes as men queued up for their 
rations. Food no longer interested me. At last a voice said, 

“You sent for me?" 

Opening my eyes I looked at a pair of legs encased in 
white, knee-high stockings and white shorts. Turning my 
throbbing head slightly on the sack so that I could look 
higher I saw the legs supported a fat, tight paunch. Rolling 
over on my back so that I looked above the melon-like 
bulge I saw a sharp face with a grey goatee. I sat up. 

“Lie down," said the man, “I am Dr. Hollweg." 

“Have any trouble with the guards?" I asked, thinking 
that was why it had taken him so long to come. He 
snorted. 

“Pigs," he said, “nothing but pigs." 

He thrust a thermometer into my mouth and launched 
into a long, excited recital of how the Japanese came to 
Palembang. Eventually he removed the thermometer, 
frowned at it and shook his head. 

“How high?" I asked. 

“Nearly forty." 

That puzzled me, so I asked again. 

“Forty," he repeated. 

I thought he was making some kind of Dutch Joke so I 
replied in kind, saying, 

“Only eight above freezing, eh? Soon I will congeal.” 

He looked at me sharply, without replying, opened a 
small bottle and shook out two white pills. 

“Take these," he said. “I will return after roll call." 


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34 BY EASTERN WINDOWS 

“No kidding, Doc,” I insisted, “what was my tempera- 
ture?” 

“I said nearly forty,” he snapped, and walked out. 

That was my introduction to Centigrade, and to Dr. 
Hollweg who, I later learned, was a nephew of ill-famed 
Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg, German Chancellor in 
World War I. Von Bethmann-Hollweg, after German 
troops invaded Belgium, termed a “mere scrap of paper” 
the treaty guaranteeing inviolate Belgium's frontiers. 

I once asked Dr. Hollweg, who said he himself served 
with the medical corps of the French army in World War I, 
if he had ever spoken to his uncle about those historically 
notorious words. 

“Yes,” said the doctor, “when he was visiting my family 
after the war, in 1920; but he only smiled and said there 
would be another war in about twenty-five years, when 
Germany had rearmed. And then ean you guess what he 
said?” 

“No,” I replied. “What did he say?” 

“ ‘Germany will fight again,’ he told me, ‘but you need 
not worry because Germany never, never, never will invade 
Holland.’ ” 

The chills and fever had gone when Dr. Hollweg re- 
turned after roll call. He said my illness was malaria. 

“You must have been exposed before you came here,” 
he said. “There is no malaria in Palembang.” 

I asked him how long the attaek would last. 

“Until you recover.” 

“How long will that be?” 

“My dear, the Japanese pigs took my crystal ball. Per- 
haps one week. Perhaps two.” 

Changing the subject I asked how many Dutchmen were 
in jail and how many English. 

“Do not call us Dutchmen. We are Hollanders.” 

I corrected myself. 

“How many Hollanders?” 


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35 

“My dear, go to sleep. Tomorrow I will come again." 

Next morning two Hollanders, as fat as they were cheer- 
ful, came in carrying a heavy wooden door between them. 

“Your bed,” they said. “It is better than the cement 
floor.” 

One of them, Holscher, had been an officer on the ship 
which was sunk under me in the Indian Ocean. I asked him 
how he obtained the door for it obviously had been removed 
from a cell. Holscher laughed and said, 

“It spoiled the view from our club house.” 

I wondered again about the guards. Actually they proved 
indifferent to what we did inside so long as we were quiet 
and answered roll calls promptly. Within a few days the 
guards forgot me completely and visitors came and went 
at will. 

One morning an Englishman walked in bearing a cup 
of coffee, the first I had tasted since capture. He introduced 
himself as Curran-Sharp, a planter from Malaya. Because 
the patients in the hospital were all English, he said, he 
had volunteered to fetch their food daily. 

“Have you met Paddy West?” he asked. 

“No, who is he?” 

“The Irish doctor here,” said Curran-Sharp, enunciating 
with the slow, precise diction of a schoolmaster lecturing 
to a class. “He was my estate doctor. Excellent fellow.” 

“What is an estate doctor?” 

“Excuse me, please,” he said, “while I light my pipe.” 

He started for the door. I told him to wait, that I would 
reward his cup of coffee with a match. 

“Save it for the night when there is no sun,” he said. 
“Matches are precious things. Watch.” 

Standing just outside the door he took from his shirt 
pocket a monocle which he used as a sun-glass, holding it 
so that the captured sunbeams were focussed on a tiny 
scrap of paper placed over the bowl of his pipe. After a con- 
siderable wait he was rewarded by a curl of smoke rising 


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from the paper. The curl became an infinitesimal flame 
and he began puffing on the pipe stem. The tobacco lit. He 
puffed furiously until smoke finally was sucked through the 
stem and blown with impatient blue-grey spurts, out of the 
side of his mouth. Triumphantly he returned inside and 
sat down. 

“Wonderful thing, the sun,” he said. “I have composed a 
poem to it.” 

“Yes?” 

“I call it Ode to Phoebus.” 

“How does it go?” 

He needed no more encouragement, but began, 

**Hear my cry, Phoebus, strongly defend me. 

All my needs comfort, all thy aid lend me. 

Always through daytime generously send me 
Sunshine quite cloudless.*’ 

Rising to his feet and puffing vigorously on the pipe be- 
tween lines in order to keep the tobacco burning, Curran- 
Sharp declaimed five more stanzas, describing how Phoebus’ 
rays, through the instrumentality of spectacle lenses, kept 
his pipe burning. The ode ended in a paean about burnt 
offerings and a plea for “quintals of good ’backey, lit by 
thy splendour.” 

I asked him what kind of tobacco he used, because it 
smelled so strange. 

“It is not tobacco,” he said. “It is dried hedge leaves.” 


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4 


Dysentery and Palemhang 
Bottom— No Relation 


R ain clouds, rolling with the west monsoon, 
piled up mighty battlements in the mid-after- 
. noon sky over Palembang. Like a searching dog 
snuffling on a scent, exploratory puffs of wind blew over the 
jail wall, whirled dust in the yard, stirred clothes drying on 
lines and fences and the little plot of grass. Soon the rain 
would come, drumming violently on tile roofs, splattering 
like ricocheting machine gun bullets from cement walks 
and walls, slanting through barred cell windows and doors. 
Except for the wind's huffing and desultory clattering from 
the kitchen where workers cleaned up after the noon meal, 
the jail was quiet. It was the siesta hour. 

Straightening to ease the crimp in my back I removed 
my hands from the reeking waters in which I was washing 
scarce and precious rags used to clean dysentery patients, 
and studied the clouds. Boiling masses, the color of angry 
surf, advanced across the sky ahead of the darker storm cen- 
ter and had reached a point almost directly overhead, so 
that the heavens were divided. It was as though towering 
cliffs at the edge of a mountain lake were trembling from 
some mighty, inner upheaval and at any moment would 
collapse and fall. Rain would hit when grey spilled into 
blue— in about half an hour, I estimated. There was just 
time to finish the few rags left in the tin. 

37 


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?8 

Beside me where I sat on the concrete walk in front of 
the jail hospital was a pile ready for rinsing in a disinfectant 
which smelled like creosote. Disinfectant was one of the 
few things our Japanese captors gave us for the jam-packed 
cell block we had transformed into a sick bay. The rags had 
been carefully cut from clothing donated by prisoners from 
their own backs. Consequently, they had to be used over 
and over again. Washing dysentery rags at first had been a 
revolting task but we soon lost our squeamishness. They 
were washed during the siesta hour— the only daylight 
period when necessary receptacles were not being used for 
other purposes. 

I finished the last rag, emptied the wash tin’s slimy con- 
tents into a slop bucket, scrubbed the tin, refilled it with 
fresh water, replaced the rags and put the bucket on a fire. 
The cloths would be sterilized by boiling and afterward 
spiked to dry on the barbed wire fence separating the hos- 
pital cell block from the jail yard proper. 

Glancing at the sky I saw the battlemented clouds were 
spilling into the blue. Rain was almost upon us but I calcu- 
lated there was still time for a quick bath. Wrapping what 
passed for a towel around my waist I walked over to the 
low concrete water tank between the hospital and the wall, 
dipped a bucket of water and, holding it aloft, let the liquid 
cascade over me. Delicious. At that moment the wind 
stopped playing around and surged over the high wall in a 
steady flow bearing scattered rain drops. 

“Rain!” I shouted. “Rain! Rain!” 

The cry was taken up by men who swarmed from cells 
to rescue drying garments. I laughed until, remembering 
my mosquito net, I deserted the bath tank, dashed into 
the yard, still clad only in my birthday suit, gathered up the 
net and fled into the hospital clinic where I lived and 
worked dressing wounds and ulcers on the skins of fellow 
prisoners. Seconds later struck the kind of cloudburst known 
in the Indies as a “Sumatran.” For thirty minutes it pun- 


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DYSENTERY AND PALEMBANG BOTTOM 39 

ished us, beating with a steady thunder which obliterated 
all but shouted conversation. Men who, because of over- 
crowding, had to live out on the covered walks, retreated 
into neighboring cells with their possessions and, with the 
cell occupants, withdrew as far as possible from doors and 
windows to avoid flying spray. Soon water was pouring 
through roof leaks and those with bedding underneath 
cursed and tried to find dry spots. Almost as quickly as it 
began, the rain diminished to a drizzle, to scattered drops, 
to nothing. Clouds moved eastward, unveiling the sun. 
Soon the rain was returning to heaven in the form of steam. 
Sumatra was as notorious for steaming humidity as for 
violent rains. Long ago, on first landing there, I had de- 
cided that if the humidity were a few degrees higher birds 
would need fins instead of wings. 

During the six months that had passed since the morn- 
ing of my first roll call, over two hundred new prisoners 
had been crammed into the jail. The storerooms next to 
the guardhouse had been cleaned of their chains, leg irons 
and the junk of years to make room. Those for whom no 
additional space could be found spilled over onto the out- 
side walks. Most newcomers were from Malaya, shipwrecked 
Englishmen or Australians who had swum or floated ashore 
on Sumatra’s east coast and adjacent islands. They had 
come to Palembang after two months of forced labor on 
little food and no medical care. I was just recovering from 
the malaria attack when they arrived. A special roll call 
rang in midafternoon of April 1 5th to announce them. 

When the bell rang the yard was cleared, fence gates 
were closed and locked and, while we watched through the 
barbed wire, they straggled through the front gate. I won- 
dered if we looked as disreputable when we arrived as did 
these ragged, sun-blistered newcomers. Some hobbled, hang- 
ing to men on either side. Others limped on canes or 
crutches. Some were carried on homemade stretchers. As 


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40 

the stretchers passed through the gates, a whisper, like a 
little wind, blew from the still forms, ran along the lines of 
incoming men until it reached us behind the fence. The 
whisper said, “DYSENTERY!" 

Dysentery was a dreadful word and a mortal enemy. We 
feared it like the plague. We had been thankful that dysen- 
tery had not visited Palembang Jail. We had taken every 
possible precaution, in our confined and crowded circum- 
stances, to avoid it. Now it was coming in on stretchers 
through the gate. The stretchers were laid in the middle of 
the yard. Guards gave them a wide berth as they counted 
the men, who lined up along the fences for inspection, and 
searched their bundles. The Japanese feared dysentery as 
intensely as did we. 

Inspecting the 162 men took so long I returned to my 
bunk but was summoned from it by a man who called 
to me, 

“There’s an American out here." 

I hurried out. My informer indicated a man standing in 
line with his back to me. He was a big, well built fellow in 
fantastically patched shorts and shirt which did not con- 
ceal his powerful neck, broad shoulders and slim hips. Be- 
low the shorts was a pair of well muscled legs. Heavy Aus- 
tralian army shoes shod his feet and on his head was a small, 
tight fitting, black stocking cap which caused me to tag him 
in my mind as a merchant seaman. 

Reaching through the fence I tapped his shoulder. He 
turned and I was looking into a pair of harsh, blue-grey 
eyes. A scraggly, sandy colored beard covered his face but 
not enough to hide a prominent jaw and a wide, but thin- 
lipped mouth. My first impression was that I wouldn’t want 
to meet him in a dark alley. 

“I’m the other American here," I said. 

His hard eyes lighted, the wide mouth grinned and his 
whole face was transformed into the rugged features of a 
good guy as he thrust his hand through the wire and we 


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DYSENTERY AND PALEMBANG BOTTOM 41 

shook. A guard bellowed at us and we did not speak 
further. 

Later, after the neweomers had been officially added to 
our midst, he came into my cell and handed me a nipa leaf 
cigaret. I was about to light it when I noticed he had none. 

“What about you?” 

“Just finished one,” he replied. 

Some time later I learned he hadn’t had a smoke for 
days but had scrounged the one he gave me with a plea 
that “there’s a sick American in there who looks like he 
needs a cigaret.” 

He proved to be a 30-year-old brewmaster, not a seaman, 
named Eric Germann. New York was his home. He had 
been called to Singapore shortly before the war’s outbreak 
to help step-up production of beer for troops brought in 
to strengthen Malaya’s defenses. We became close friends 
and, eventually, partners in a food smuggling enterprise to 
which Eric’s muscles heavily contributed. Food smuggling 
was accomplished by getting out at night, trading goods for 
food with native Indonesians and getting back in again. It 
was a dangerous means of avoiding starvation but it worked 
—except for those who were caught, Eric and I became 
members of a little band of food smugglers whose adven- 
tures appear later in this story. 

The new prisoners, with their wounds and dysentery, 
urgently required some kind of hospitalization. G. F. West, 
a 38-year-old, six-foot-three-inch Dublin Irishman, whom 
Poet Curran-Sharp had referred to as “my estate doctor,” 
took charge of the hospital. Although this was Dr. Holl- 
weg’s home ground, the sick men were all Britishers and 
West naturally, and by means of his innate qualities of 
leadership, became the senior doctor. He was a lieutenant- 
colonel in the British medical corps and a casualty of the 
battle for Malaya, suffering machine gun bullet wounds 
which clipped off one finger and part of another of his 
right hand and pierced both his legs. 


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42 

He turned the sick bay next to my solitary cell into a 
dysentery ward and moved the patients there into my quar- 
ters which henceforth were called the clinic. Together, the 
two cells became Palembang Jail Hospital. As men in the 
clinic recovered they moved into other cells in the jail. 
However, W. Probyn Allen and I stayed as assistants to 
the doctors. I became a “dresser,” swabbing and bandaging 
wounds and ever increasing tropic skin sores. 

The universal treatment for skin sores, no matter on what 
part of the anatomy, was soaking in hot water, followed 
by removal of dead tissue and bandaging. Ingenious handi- 
craft workers had fashioned metal receptacles in which a 
man could sit and soak his festered bottom, if that was 
where the sores were; or dunk his hands, feet or elbows in 
smaller containers. While it lasted, we put potassium per- 
manganate in the water and after that a solution of caustic 
soda. The solution was extracted from wood ashes by soak- 
ing twenty-four hours in water then draining off the liquid 
and straining it through a cloth. When our soap supply 
ended, the solution also was used to wash clothes. 

Half an hour’s soaking prepared a patient for “dressing.” 
With surgical scissors and forceps I removed dead flesh 
from live tissue and treated the wounds with salves we 
made ourselves from coconut oil, rock sulphur or salicylic 
acid crystals. We were able to obtain the compounds and 
a few other ointments and medicines from sources outside 
the jail. 

Sores and ulcers were not our only skin troubles. Various 
itches and a variety of impetigo the Dutch called monkey- 
pox was common. Herbert Smallwood, a broad, thick-set 
cockney seaman with a black handlebar moustache, sharply 
pointed on the ends, barrel chest, the arms and legs of a 
gorilla and hammer-toed feet, was our most monkey-pox 
afflicted customer. In bulk Smallwood was only a few 
pounds lighter than Allen. He perspired so copiously he 
always reminded me of a sea lion just emerging from the 


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DYSENTERY AND PALEMBANG BOTTOM 43 

deep. When monkey-pox got him there was not an inch 
of his body free from blisters. He was my special job. 

Every other day Smallwood appeared at the clinic, 
trumpeted a tune, and offered his bulk for treatment. His 
voice was a hoarse, tenor rasp and because he couldn't sing 
he trumpeted with lips and tongue in remarkable simula- 
tion of the real thing. When Smallwood first cut loose- 
in another prison camp— Japanese guards ransacked it try- 
ing to find the hidden bugle they insisted was blowing 
secret signals. They remained skeptical even after Small- 
wood staged a demonstration. After that he performed only 
in subdued tones. 

Smallwood’s working life had begun as a London grocery 
boy. Then he went to sea, spent several years in Canadian 
lumber camps and finally, when the war broke out, signed 
on a Canadian Pacific steamship as a kitchen flunky. The 
boat was bombed and burned in Singapore harbor. Fellow 
sailors said Smallwood risked his life to save others in his 
section of the blazing ship. Penniless and cheerful, he 
worked like a horse around the jail and did the hospital 
washing until monkey-pox claimed him. 

While I worked on him he quivered like a dish of jelly 
and alternately laughed and cried but he always insisted 
that I continue until the job was done. Beginning at the 
top and working down I broke every blister on his hide, 
then bathed him with a mild solution of potassium per- 
manganate. It took just an hour, while he trembled and 
winced and the spiked points of his moustache wiggled 
like the noses of twin rabbits about to sneeze. He some- 
times fainted by the time I reached his feet and for that 
reason I made him sit on a stool so he wouldn’t have far to 
fall if he passed out. 

When it was all over I would roll him a cigaret and give 
him a drink of tea we brewed for dysentery patients. 

Another steady customer was the New Zealander, Burt, 
who developed our first colossal case of “Palembang Bot- 


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44 

tom," Burt was the case history on which we based our 
subsequent treatment of that ailment and by which we 
proved the efficacy of hot water, the sun and Gentian Vio- 
let, in the order named. 

Palembang Bottom usually started with small blisters 
which developed into running sores where one sits down. 
We experimented on Burt for a long time before we finally 
hit the curing combination. In the beginning nothing 
worked. Sulphur, salicylate, coconut oil, poultices of various 
kinds and descriptions were of no avail. 

'‘What am I going to do. Doc?" I asked West in despair 
one morning when Burt presented his bottom for another 
treatment. 

“You've got to do something," Burt chimed in. “My 
wife will never believe me if I tell her I got these just sit- 
ting in a jail," 

Doc had an idea. 

“Burt,” he said, “go sit in a bucket of hot water." 

Faithfully, Burt followed instructions. Since we had only 
two kinds of receptacles for holding water, five gallon kero- 
sene tins and ordinary pails, neither of which had the neces- 
sary staunchness or circumference, Burt’s gymnastics dunk- 
ing his backside each morning were something to behold. 
Audience reaction was terrific. Within a week Burt’s back- 
side had improved remarkably, but it reached a certain 
stage of cure and there remained. Something else was 
needed. 

Doc’s next idea was sunshine. 

“Do your soaking early," he told Burt, “and then take a 
sunbath for about fifteen minutes," 

The hospital was on the side of the jail which received 
the first rays of sunlight. Every morning for several weeks 
Burt stood there, posed at such an angle that when the sun 
peered over the east wall the first thing it saw was Burt’s 
backside. Hot water and sunshine almost but not quite 
cured him. 


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DYSENTERY AND PALEMBANG BOTTOM 45 

I can say, with pardonable professional pride, that the 
final touch was my idea. In our meager medicine chest was 
a tube of ointment labeled Gentian Violet. What it was 
for I didn’t know but experimenting on my own skin had 
shown that it was a mildly astringent indelible dye. Once 
applied it had to wear off. One morning after his sunbath 
I painted Burt’s bottom gentian violet. The effect was 
startling especially when, due to some chemical cause un- 
known to me, Burt’s bottom turned from gentian violet to 
a certain shade of vermilion I had seen many times before 
in the zoo at home on the bare posterior of a Hamadryas 
baboon. 

Needless to say, many other sufferers from Palembang 
Bottom were following the experiment on Burt with an 
interest approaching the breathless. No class of medical 
students ever assembled with more eagerness in their lec- 
ture ampitheater to watch a professor stage a demonstra- 
tion than gathered each morning outside the hospital of 
Palembang Jail to study the ups and downs of Burt’s case 
as he progressed from bucket to sunbath to painting. 

As I delicately traced gentian violet lines on Burt’s 
anatomy I reflected, sadly, that probably this was the near- 
est I would ever come to knowing the inner thrill an artist 
feels while students follow his brush strokes. The greatest 
thrill, of course, came the morning Doc pronounced Burt 
cured. Cheering spectators shook Burt’s hand and the 
beaming patient said, “Now I can fearlessly face my 
wife.” 

Second in command to Doc West in the other half of 
the hospital— the dysentery ward— was Old Pop, 58-year-old 
English ex-planter whom we called “The Matron.” 

Matron Pop was one of the happiest men in jail, prob- 
ably because for the first time in years he found himself 
in charge of something and indispensable. His adult life 
had been spent in Sumatra and Malaya as a planter but he 
had never attained full managership of a plantation. In 


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46 

fact, he had considered himself fortunate to land a job in 
the government rubber restriction office. He was a humble 
man who joked about his failures and whose reminiscences 
were never sour. He told my favorite Malay baby story. 

First you must remember the Malay words for “Hello 
Mister," which are “tabe tuan" and pronounced tah-bay 
too-ahn. Got it? Hello Mister— Tabe Tuan. 

Pop was walking a jungle path between plantations and 
came to a flimsy suspension bridge of bamboo over a deep 
stream. Pop always came to that bridge with trepidation 
because its swaying and swinging required a nice sense of 
balance and a firm grip on the rope handrail. This particular 
morning he approached it on one side just as a Malay 
woman carrying a child started across from the other. The 
baby was having his morning breakfast at his mother’s 
breast. To Pop’s experienced eye the child looked about 
two years old, an uncommon age for breast nursing but not 
infrequent in the Orient. The nursing continued as the 
mother cat walked across the swinging bridge without using 
the handrail because one hand steadied the baby astraddle 
her hip and the other held a basket balanced on her head. 
She was chewing betel nut and casually spat into the 
stream. 

What startled Pop was the child. In one hand the infant 
held a lighted cigaret and was alternately mouthing his 
mother’s breast and puffing on the nipa straw. When the 
mother had crossed and the astonished Pop stepped aside 
to let her step off the bridge, the child removed the cig- 
aret from his mouth, exhaled a gust of smoke, looked 
brightly at Pop and said, 

“Tabe tuan.’’ 

Pop had taken charge of nursing the dysentery patients 
before they arrived in Palembang Jail and he continued in 
the job afterward. He slept on the floor of the clinic, or, 
if he took a notion, curled up on the floor of the dysentery 
ward. He could have had a door for a bed and even a mat- 


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DYSENTERY AND PALEMBANG BOTTOM 47 

tress when a patient died who owned one, but he preferred 
only an empty rice bag. 

“Less trouble,” he explained. “All I have to do is hang 
it on the fence in the morning.” 

The most nauseating jobs never fazed Pop. He always 
ate in the ward without a stomach flutter. He reveled in 
adversity and was happy to be on his bare feet, moving all 
day except during the siesta hour immediately after the 
midday meal. Then he slept for an hour while the dysentery 
rags were being washed and boiled. 

We heated water for sterilizing and hot baths on an open 
fire in front of the hospital. The fireplace was a small thing 
of tin, loose bricks and a grill fashioned from cell door 
bars. We also used the fire to boil rice down to a thick 
soup for dysentery patients. That was an uncomfortable 
job because the bubbling stuff frequently popped with 
little explosions which splashed scalding liquid on our bare 
skin. Pve still got little brown scars on my belly which 
mark soft rice blisters. 

The hospital staff kept occupied during daylight hours, 
nursing, dressing, cleaning, boiling, and cutting into fire- 
wood the logs supplied by the Japanese. We were too busy 
to mope, so time passed quickly. I had always imagined 
that the worst punishment of being imprisoned would be 
waiting for time to pass , . . the slow drag of hours and 
days, months and years. But I was kept so busy in the hos- 
pital that time never dragged. As I spiked the last rag on 
the fence after the rainstorm and looked back to the first 
time I had done so, it seemed that only a few weeks, instead 
of six months, had passed since the shipwrecked English- 
men joined us and brought dysentery. 

An admonitory jangle sounded from the roll call bell, 
followed by one stroke and a shouted, “Teal” Prisoners 
queued up to receive their afternoon cupful each from the 
big iron tong which had been simmering in the kitchen. 
Cups in hand, men returned to their respective quarters. 


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48 BY EASTERN WINDOWS 

jquatted around the yard to enlarge the latest rumor or 
formed a line at the clinic for opening of afternoon busi- 
ness. When the rush of dressings had ended Doc, Allen 
and I discussed what always was the biggest news of the 
week. Who would be sent out next day to Charitas? 


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5 

Charitas 


I N the city of Palembang were three hospitals— 
New Charitas, Old Charitas and Dr. Gani's. New 
Charitas had been opened by Bishop Mekkelholt 
and the Dutch Sisters of Charity in 1940. When the Jap- 
anese arrived they took over the new hospital and gave the 
nuns five hours to return to their former building, which 
had been turned into a school, and open a hospital there for 
war prisoners and Dutch oil technicians forcefully trans- 
ported from Java to help put the refineries outside Palem- 
bang back into operation. The sisters were forbidden to take 
any equipment except beds and one operating table. The 
nuns, two doctors, and patients who could walk, moved the 
beds and patients who couldn't walk across the street to 
Old Charitas. 

Native patients were ordered moved to the clinic of an 
Indonesian doctor named A. K. Gani, who after the war 
became a minister in the Indonesian Republic. Under 
Japanese direction the clinic was expanded into a hospital 
for natives with Dr. Gani in charge, assisted by Dr. Holl- 
weg, who was taken from jail for that purpose along with 
another fellow prisoner, a British dentist named H. Harley- 
Clark. Old Charitas— known henceforth as simply Chari- 
tas— for eighteen months served the civilian prisoners in 
Palembang Jail and the Women’s Camp, Australian, British 
and Dutch soldiers in two military camps, and the oil 

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50 

workers who were interned at Pladjoe and Soengei Gerong, 
sites of the Shell and Standard refineries. 

Despite vigilance of Japanese guards, who supervised the 
moving from New to Old Charitas, the nuns managed to 
spirit out some surgical instruments, drugs and medicines. 
Half of their supplies they had already removed and hid- 
den before the invaders reached the hospital. 

For several months the Japanese paid no attention to our 
sick prisoners unless one died; then there would be a bustle 
of activity and a few critically ill persons would be taken 
to Charitas. Bishop Mekkelholt became seriously ill and 
was among those who thus were removed from jail to 
Charitas. Due in part to his influence— when he recovered 
sufficiently to negotiate— and in part to Japanese civil offi- 
cials taking over administration of Palembang from the 
military, there was arranged a system of weekly “exchanges” 
of recuperated patients from Charitas for sick patients in 
the jail, the Women’s Camp, the two military camps and 
the refineries. 

Charitas thus was a godsend, not only to the sick but to 
the well, for the “exchanges” enabled it to function as a 
clearing house of information between the otherwise com- 
pletely isolated prisoner groups. Men and women returning 
from Charitas brought smuggled letters from husbands and 
wives and relayed news of the war picked up by radios 
hidden in Charitas, one military camp and the oil camp. 
Charitas served as a money exchange depot, cash traveling 
both ways, depending on whether husband or wife was 
carrying the family purse when they were separated. We 
also got medicine and bandages from Charitas via the 
smuggling route. 

Two Japanese doctors alternated in visiting the jail to 
inspect patients destined for Charitas. One allowed only 
critically ill men to be sent. The other let any one go whom 
Doc West recommended. When the lenient doctor was on 
dutv. West usually included among the legitimately sick 


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CHARITAS 51 

someone who had a wife or child in Charitas. West’s 
choices were never questioned by the lenient doctor, a 
friendly man who spoke English. Occasionally he would 
visit our clinic and talk about medical matters. On one 
such visit he announced he was returning soon to Tokyo. 
I asked him if he knew the Japanese government spokes- 
man, Tomokazu Hori, whom I had known in both Shang- 
hai and Tokyo. It chanced that he did, 

“Will you give him a message for me?” I asked. 

The doctor nodded assent. I handed him a note, pre- 
viously written for such an opportunity, asking Hori to 
notify the Red Cross that I was interned in Palembang, 
Sumatra. Whether or not Hori received it I never learned. 
If he did, the message was never relayed to the Interna- 
tional Red Cross. 

Meanwhile I had other irons in the fire. Before Dr. Holl- 
weg was taken to the Indonesian hospital he told me he 
had Chinese friends in Palembang who he thought would 
help me escape. The problem was not so much escaping 
from jail as hiding afterward and getting aboard one of the 
native sailboats which, I learned, were being allowed to 
operate in inter-island trade. Such boats had arrived at 
Palembang from Makassar, 1,000 miles eastward in the 
Celebes. I had visions of thus reaching the Celebes and 
then New Guinea and Allied-held Port Moresby. The radio 
frequently mentioned Port Moresby. 

Hollweg was allowed to move at will in Palembang and 
was a frequent caller at Charitas. I determined to go there. 
Doc West sent me as a sick patient . . . not to escape, 
for escaping from Charitas would be disastrous to the hos- 
pital, but to make a contact with Chinese and to get some 
news. News was nearly as important to jail morale as food 
and for two months we had been starved for news. Return- 
ing patients said the secret Charitas radio had been dis- 
mantled because Japanese were suspicious. That was not 
surprising because many prisoners were so indiscreet they 


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52 

would shout for joy when they heard good news and moan 
loudly if it was bad. However, I had a hunch Bishop Mek- 
kelholt was only playing safe and had not dismantled the 
radio. 

Eight of us, including two stretcher cases, arrived at the 
stone-flagged entrance of Charitas and were searched by 
Japanese guards who went through our pockets and looked 
inside our shirts but did not strip us. During the search 
I noticed a tall, slender nun standing just inside the en- 
trance, watching. One of the patients, a Hollander who 
had been there before, was carrying letters inside his shirt. 
He stood so he would be the last man searched. A guard 
had just gone through his pockets and was about to look 
in his shirt when the patient, feigning sudden weakness, 
moaned and staggered back against the wall. Quick as a 
flash, the nun emerged from the door and seized him by the 
shoulders as though to prevent him from falling. Behind 
her came another nun. Supporting him between them the 
two nuns half carried the pretender past the guards into 
the hospital. The frustrated searcher followed to finish his 
job but the nuns brushed him off by saying their patient 
was “very sick.” 

That was my first sample of the stratagems of Charitas. 
The nun who had first appeared was Mother Alacoque, 
hospital superintendent. She was a slender, middle-aged 
woman with disarming brown eyes and a shy, nervous man- 
ner. Beneath that deceptive exterior, however, was inflexible 
courage and purpose. She completely fooled the Japanese— 
until someone betrayed her. 

She knew the idiosyncrasies of every guard— who was 
tough and who was not. If a tough one was on duty no 
smuggling attempts were made by patients leaving the hos- 
pital. But Mother Alacoque or another nun would be busy 
at the front steps as outgoing patients, having been searched, 
walked to the waiting truck. If the moment was judged 
opportune the nuns would “accidentally” bump into a man 


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CHARITAS 


53 

and slip him some small object. When “good” guards were 
on duty they would allow patients to leave without being 
searched. In those and other ways we got limited amounts 
of medical supplies into the jail. The nuns were not direct 
parties to letter smuggling. They simply assisted patients 
in and out of hospital and looked the other way when 
necessary. 

Charitas hospital was a rambling, one-story structure 
divided into three parts, one for male civilians, the second 
for military personnel, and the third for women. Communi- 
cations between the groups were forbidden by the Jap- 
anese, who were constantly patrolling inside and outside, 
but Mother Alacoque arranged evasions of the rules when 
good reasons arose to evade them. Whenever a wife ar- 
rived in Charitas, word was sent to the jail and her hus- 
band would be in the next batch of patients if Doc West 
could arrange it. She even had an ally in one of the Jap- 
anese guard commanders who revealed to her he was a 
Catholic. When he was on duty, the hospital garden was 
never patrolled during certain hours and there husbands 
and wives could meet. A husband once arrived at the hos- 
pital just as his wife was being returned to the Women’s 
Camp. Mother Alacoque told the friendly commander. He 
brought the couple into the guardroom and left them while 
he stood at the entrance so they could visit undisturbed. 

Guards were changed frequently and the friendly com- 
mander’s group was replaced by Japanese field police while 
I was at the hospital. They were uncouth, ugly men who 
made life as disagreeable as possible for prisoners. But 
Mother Alacoque and her nuns, smiling all the while, con- 
tinued to fool them. 

Three nuns were midwives who long before the war had 
made themselves indispensable to Palembang’s native com- 
munity. The Japanese had acquiesced to a petition from 
natives that the nuns be allowed to continue assisting at 
births in the city. They were on call day or night. When- 


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BY EASTERN WINDOWS 


ever we saw a nun bicycling out of the hospital grounds 
we knew that Palembang’s population was about to be 
increased. 

Sister Paula, a little woman with smiling blue eyes and 
a voice constantly on the verge of laughter, was one of the 
midwives. Although she may have been up all night assist- 
ing at a childbirth she put in the same day shift as the other 
sisters, beginning at 4:30 a.m. when they rose to pray. In 
the evening, after a day of scrubbing, cleaning and nursing 
that should have exhausted her, she sat in the ward where 
I stayed, sewing and practicing English, or cheering some 
lonely Hollander who wanted to hear a woman's voice. I 
never saw an idle nun or a gloomy one. Despite their toil 
and their daily hazards they were the happiest persons I 
met. 

The hazards were both internal and external: internal in 
that the law of averages eventually would trip a letter 
smuggler, and external in relations with temperamental and 
frequently changing Japanese officials. Sooner or later. 
Mother Alacoque feared, the hospital would be closed en- 
tirely. She planned, therefore, for the war's end when she 
would need medical supplies to reopen her hospital. 

How safeguard the supplies? The midwives took care of 
that. Under the folds of their habits when they pedaled 
away on a natal case would be some article to be given a 
faithful native for hiding until the war ended. So well did 
Mother Alacoque plan that when the day she feared finally 
did come, the Japanese were astonished to find that Chari- 
tas was down nearly to its last bottle of alcohol, its last 
ampule of morphine and its last package of roller bandages. 

Three doctors functioned at Charitas: Surgeon Peter 
Tekelenburg, a rock of a man, big, steady, quiet, and re- 
sourceful; Dr. Ziesel, a small, slender Indo-European with 
a stout heart; and a German woman physician named 
Goldberg-Curth who had fled from Hitler Germany to 
Singapore. 


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CHARITAS 55 

Tekelenburg had been a well known athlete in his youth 
and a member of Holland’s national soccer team. He came 
to the Indies as a young army doctor and, after a few years, 
began private practice in Palembang. He once called me 
into his surgery and said with a smile, “Today someone 
told me they heard the Chungking radio.” 

Tracing with his finger an imaginary map on the operat- 
ing table he outlined the military situation in China as 
broadcast by the radio. Next he sketched the Russo-German 
front and the situation there. 

I had a hunch who “someone” was. Bishop Mekkelholt 
later confirmed it. Dr. Tekelenburg lived in a house across 
the street from the hospital. There was hidden the Charitas 
radio. Once a week he listened to news broadcasts and 
relayed them to the Bishop whose task it was to get the 
news to the jail without the source being known. This the 
Bishop did whenever patients he could trust left Charitas. 
The secret was never discovered by the Japanese, who fre- 
quently made routine searches of Dr. Tekelenburg’s house. 

Because of his brown skin Dr. Ziesel was allowed to live 
away from the hospital. He used his freedom and his friends 
among the Ambonese colony in Palembang to aid war 
prisoners. The Ambonese were native to the island of 
Amboina, in the Moluccas near New Guinea, They were 
extremely loyal to the Dutch and strongly anti-Japanese. 
Through them Dr. Ziesel managed to obtain many things 
for prisoners, especially for the penniless British women. 
Although hospital patients continually importuned him for 
news, because they thought his Ambonese friends had hid- 
den radios. Dr. Ziesel refused to be pumped. He was taking 
grave risks already and he did not wish to increase them by 
talk which could be traced to him. 

He brought me copies of an English language newspaper 
published in Singapore under Japanese auspices. How they 
reached him in Palembang, Dr, Ziesel did not say. One of 
them devoted columns to an exchange of nationals be- 


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56 

tween Japan and the United States. Japanese news dis- 
patches quoted the American repatriates on their good 
treatment and gave long lists of names, among them those 
of correspondents from Tokyo, Shanghai and Peiping. I 
knew them all. Now they were going home while I, who 
had congratulated myself for having escaped, was again a 
prisoner. Had I remained in Shanghai I would have been 
with them. The stories traced the route of the two exchange 
ships. They skirted Bangka Island, less than one hundred 
miles from Palembang, and passed through the Sunda 
Straits between Java and Sumatra. I daydreamed fantastic 
schemes of rowing out to intercept them. 

The story killed my repatriation hopes. Now there was 
only one way out— escape; and my reliance on Dr. Hollweg 
and his promises was rapidly weakening. I was beginning 
to question his judgment and his discretion. Twice he had 
visited Charitas and assured me that his Chinese friends 
were willing to help and wanted to speak with me. A wall 
about five feet high surrounded Charitas. Hollweg told me 
to stand at a certain place along the wall so a Chinese 
friend, in passing by, could loiter within talking distance. 
I followed instructions but the Chinese did not appear. 
The third time Dr. Hollweg visited Charitas he had no 
sooner passed the guardroom than he began shouting, 

'The Americans have landed in Java! The Americans 
have landed in Java!” 

That was in late 1942. 

When he was finally shushed and pinned down as to the 
source of his information it proved to be a rumor in the 
Palembang market place. After that I placed no more hopes 
in Dr. Hollweg. 

Just before I returned to Palembang Jail both Bishop 
Mekkelholt and Dr. Tekelenburg asked me to tell Dr. West 
they feared serious trouble if prisoners continued to smug- 
gle letters through Charitas in such volume. They asked 
that the number and frequency of letters be drastically 


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57 

reduced. I relayed the message and Dr. West tried vainly 
to halt the smuggling. He made an issue of it before our 
elected “Camp Committee" but his efforts were bitterly 
opposed by men who insisted on continuing to write fre- 
quently to their women folk and who declared it was “brave 
to fool the enemy" by smuggling as many letters as possible. 
They derided warnings of possible dire results. 

When the reckoning finally came it cost the lives of Doc- 
tors Tekelenburg and Ziesel, sent Mother Alacoque to mili- 
tary prison and closed Charitas. 


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6 

We Keep Holy the Sabbath Day 


1 FTER escaping to Sumatra's west coast I was 
l\ just shoving off for India in a native sailboat 
M jL when a hand prodded me awake, ending my 
dream of freedom. 

“Okay," I whispered through the mosquito net and 
watched the white blur that was Father Filing glide silently 
through the clinic’s darkness. For a moment his figure was 
outlined in the doorway, then it disappeared. 

Sleepy eyed, I wriggled through the net, shuffled outside, 
looked up at the star spangled sky and wished the dream 
had finished before I was awakened. It was always thus. My 
dreams of escape, real and imaginary, always evaporated 
just before fulfillment. Drawing a bucket of water from the 
bath tank I washed, brushed my teeth, returned to the 
clinic, discarded the sarong in which I slept, pulled on 
shorts and a shirt and started across the yard to Sunday 
Mass, which was said early so as to be finished by daylight 
and pre-roll-call activities. 

White robed clerics were moving quietly from the dark- 
ness of their cell block to the concrete walk outside where 
Mass was celebrated. The altar was a wooden door laid 
across two boxes and covered with a white linen cloth. 
Behind it a red sarong hung from a barbed wire fence. A 
single candle furnished light for reading the missal. The 
narrow walk was bounded by a cell wall on one side and 
a deep gutter on the other. TTiree Australians slept on the 

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59 

walk about fifteen feet from the altar. The congregation 
stood or knelt within those boundaries while the Austral- 
ians slumbered. As Mass ended, dawn chased away the 
shadows and suddenly it was day. 

As if awakened by an alarm the jail stirred to life. Men 
hurried out of their cells, racing for the water tanks or space 
on drying lines or the grass to sun their bedding. Sunning 
was imperative to rid bedding and clothing of the night's 
dampness and bedbugs. Bedbugs would scuttle for cover as 
soon as they felt the sun. That was the moment to catch 
and squash them between the fingers with a pop and squirt 
of their pirated human blood. Crushed bedbugs filled the 
jail with a repulsive scent. There was no other way of 
de-bugging and even such measures meant only temporary 
relief and the possibility of getting to sleep at night before 
another wave swarmed from cracks and crevices. What I 
hated most was having them fall off the mosquito net into 
my face. 

The welcome shout of “coffee” sounded at half past five. 
That was a Sunday morning custom when coffee was avail- 
able. We queued up with cups, coconut shells or tin cans 
to which handles had been soldered. Back at our cells with 
the steaming brew we squatted in the sun and sipped and 
smoked. The sun was still only comfortably warm. The air 
carried a hint of night. We were fresh from sleep and not 
yet tired. No bells had rung to remind us of our status. 
This was the best hour of the day. 

After roll call church-goers “dressed up” to attend serv- 
ices in the Dutch Protestant, Church of England or Cath- 
olic faiths. Catholics had two services on Sunday, Low 
Mass before roll call and High Mass with a full choir after- 
ward. 

Since they had no regular minister, Dutch Protestants 
alternated among themselves in conducting services. Most 
frequent speakers were two oil executives who had shared 
shipwreck and other adventures with me, W. H. Oosten, 


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BY EASTERN WINDOWS 


director general of Shell’s vast East Indies holdings, and 
Anton H. Colijn, manager of the installations at Tarakan, 
near Borneo. 

Like myself, Colijn had once before been a prisoner of 
the Japanese and escaped. He was a slender, wiry, highly 
strung man in his late forties, well known for his explorations 
and mountaineering in New Guinea. His father for many 
years was Prime Minister of Holland. 

Oosten was a big, heavy-set, purposeful man and a life- 
long friend of Colijn’s. The three of us had first met just 
before sailing from Java. After our ship was sunk we were 
reunited on a Sumatra beach and, along with Colijn’s three 
daughters and two other men, banded together in an effort 
to escape before the Japanese found us. Our effort failed 
but the friendship cemented by our common vicissitudes 
was a lasting one. 

Until his death. Church of England services were con- 
ducted by a minister who had been in charge of a seamen’s 
mission in Singapore, and afterward by a British govern- 
ment officer from Malaya. Reverend A. V. Wardle, the 
minister, and H. G. Hammet, the officer, read from the 
Book of Common Prayer and led in the singing of 
hymns. 

Both Dutch and British Protestants held their services 
outdoors and on rainy days skipped them. The Catholic 
clergy who occupied nearly all of one cell block transformed 
it into a church for High Mass on Sunday mornings after 
roll call. It was a large, square room with small barred 
windows high in the walls. Worshippers sat on the cement 
bench which ran around three sides of the room, or on 
wooden stools in the central floor space. Sermons alternated 
in English and Dutch, with Fathers Elling and Bakker giv- 
ing the English talks. In the beginning neither of them 
could speak better than awkward English but by study and 
practice they gradually attained fluency. Father Bakker and 
I traded language lessons— his Malay for my English; while 


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WE KEEP HOLY THE SABBATH DAY 6i 

Bard Curran-Sharp, who was a Mason, tutored Father 
Eliing and coached his Sunday sermons. 

An English friend I will call Wembley-Smythe dropped 
into the clinic after Church of England services to debate 
whether he should have his finger freshly bandaged before 
going on shift in the kitchen, 

“I hate to have it bandaged at all,” he said, sucking on 
an empty pipe, “but I suppose it is the thing to do. An 
ounce of precaution and all that sort of thing, you know.” 

“If you fill that pipe and light it, so we won't have to 
listen to that dreadful sucking noise,” Allen told him, “we 
might settle your dilemma,” 

Wembley-Smythe was an Oxford man while W, Probyn 
Allen had gone to Cambridge. Years afterward and half a 
world away from the halls of both hoary old English uni- 
versities, these alumni reflected their schools’ traditional 
rivalry by continually exchanging gentlemanly badinage 
with a bite in it. 

The Oxford man, like many before him, had taken gov- 
ernment examinations and gone into colonial service while 
the Cambridge man had gone into business. From remarks 
of both, I gathered those two careers were traditionally 
typical of alumni from the respective universities. 

“But, as is common knowledge,” Allen once sniffed, “the 
Malayan civil service definitely is second rate. India gets 
the top career men.” 

“And the poorest business types,” retorted Wembley- 
Smythe. 

Allen’s Far Eastern headquarters was Calcutta where, 
he said, club life was more sophisticated and business life 
more British than in Malaya. 

However, to Wembley-Smythe, the most empire-con- 
scious Briton in jail, his position as magistrate in an obscure 
corner of Malaya was infinitely more important— even 
though it paid less— than Allen’s club or business life, be- 


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62 BY EASTERN WINDOWS 

cause it stood for that indefinable something that was 
‘'forever England.” 

I used to wonder what kind of magistrate was Wembley- 
Smythe, who is well described by the cliche “a scholar and 
a gentleman.” Although he was an exceptionally well read 
man, and could converse informatively on almost any sub- 
ject, he was completely inept at the practical business of 
living. He could do nothing with his hands, nor think of 
any idea whereby he might make even tobacco money. He 
was a willing, earnest, hard worker but bungled every job 
so badly his friends were always trying to find easier things 
for him to do. Hollanders liked him so much he was for a 
long time the only non-Dutchman on the regular kitchen 
staff but he was both their joy and despair. 

"Believe it or not,” Chief Cook Beissel sighed one day, 
"I think he even burns the water.” 

And he was always hurting himself. Hardly a day passed 
that Wembley-Smythe did not come in for first aid, al- 
though he dreaded the clinic as a small boy dreads the 
dentist’s chair. Working on him was, I imagined, like doc- 
toring a skittish horse. He shied away when I reached for 
the iodine, or scissors, or even an ointment swab. We 
might be standing in the center of the room but when we 
finished I would have pursued him into a corner. 

As he sucked on his pipe this Sunday morning after 
church and debated whether to have his finger redressed 
now or later, he complained of a headache. 

"If you had an aspirin for this beastly headache,” he 
said, "I would settle for that. And it would be much more 
convenient all around than fixing my finger.” 

I suggested that since we had no aspirin he might be 
interested in a headache remedy I learned in Japan. 

"Another fellow and I shared a cottage in Kamakura,” 
I began, and got no further. 

"Did you really live in Kamakura?” interrupted Wem- 
bley-Smythe. 


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63 


“Yes, right on the beach. Have you been there?" 

“No, but I read a bit of a poem about it once that en- 
dears Kamakura to me and Tve seen pictures of the gieat 
bronze Buddha that sits in a tree-shaded glade near the sea. 
I suppose you visited it often." 

“Yes, often,” I said. “Do you remember the poem?" 

He recited Kipling’s lines, of which I remember two: 

Be gentle when the ‘^heathen” pray 
To Buddha at Kamakural 

That set us to discussing religion. Wembley-Smythe at- 
tended Anglican services every Sunday but he apparently 
had no very deep personal convictions about his faith. 

“Religion is all right for the masses,” said Wembley- 
Smythe, echoing trite and familiar words, “but I think an 
educated man grows away from the need of it. The masses 
do need it, however, or there’s no telling what they’ll do." 

Allen interrupted him. 

“Caught you in the act," he said. “You’re cribbing from 
Napoleon.” 

He picked up a book of quotations he had been perusing 
and read aloud, 

“ ‘Religion,’ says Napoleon, ‘is the vaccine of the imagi- 
nation; she preserves it from all dangerous and absurd be- 
liefs. . . .”’ 

Wembley-Smythe stopped him, saying, 

“I’ll finish it from memory. 

“ ‘If you take faith away from the people you will end 
by producing nothing but highway robbers.’ End of Napo- 
leon quotation." 

“You must have been just ahead of me on the library list 
for this book," Allen said. 

“I agree with Napoleon that the masses need some kind 
of religion,” said Wembley-Smythe, “but I’m not so sure 
about my own need for it." 


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64 BY EASTERN WINDOWS 

'‘Did God create you differently from other people?” I 
asked him. 

“The question is whether or not God created me at all,” 
said Wembley-Smythe. “If we all evolved from apes and 
the apes from reptiles and the reptiles from fish and the 
fish from amoeba and the amoeba from primordial ooze, 
where does God come in?” 

I asked, “Who made the ooze?” 

“It all goes back to a gaseous nebulae,” said Wembley- 
Smythe, “or so my science teacher said, although I suppose 
he, too, was only theorizing.” 

“Let’s take the nebulae, then,” I said, “will you grant it 
had to begin?” 

“For the sake of establishing a basis for argument,” said 
Wembley-Smythe, “I’ll grant it had to begin. I’ll even grant 
that some Intelligence might have begun it. But that such 
a vast Intelligence should bother with creating individual 
creatures is too great a miracle for my imagination to swal- 
low. He started things spinning and after that let them run 
their course.” 

“Seems to me the kind of evolution you refer to would 
be an even greater miracle and proof of God’s omnipotence 
than if He created you as you are right here, on the spot.” 

“How?” 

“If you were a sculptor and molded a lump of clay into 
the figure of a man that was so real people thought it was 
alive, they would credit you with wonderful powers. But if 
you took the lump of clay and threw it into the air and 
said, ‘Presto! I endow this with special qualities that will 
change it, in time, and of itself, into a beautiful statue,’ 
and it happened, wouldn’t that be a greater miracle?” 

The bell summoning kitchen workers rang just then. 

“Damn,” said Wembley-Smythe, “we’ll continue this 
later. I’ve got to run. You haven’t fixed either my finger 
or my headache. Just as well, you’d probably make them 
worse.” 


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He laughed and ducked out the door. I watched him 
cross the yard, with his peculiar gait, shoulders stooped 
but swaggering as he bobbed, rather than walked, 
along. 

Allen laid aside the book of quotations, yawned and 
said it was about time for language class. 

Language lessons, private and en masse, began in the 
first days of internment. Classes were conducted in Dutch, 
English, Malay, Spanish, French, German, Japanese and 
Russian. Languages were only part of our scholastic curricu- 
lum. Fully half of the prisoners were technicians of vari- 
ous kinds. They organized the Palembang Jail Engineering 
Association and held weekly symposiums on technical sub- 
jects, and smaller, twice weekly classes in various branches 
of engineering. 

New Zealander Burt was the most dogged student in 
jail. He put in five hours a day for a year on Spanish and 
when he had reached a certain stage of proficiency reduced 
the Spanish studies to one hour daily and took up lessons 
on a jail-made guitar, strumming four hours a day for 
another year. He did it all to surprise his wife, explaining, 

“She won’t believe it’s me when I walk in singing Span- 
ish and strumming a guitar.” 

“How about organizing a poker game?” I suggested to 
Eric, my fellow American, one Sunday night when restless- 
ness was making my nerves crawl. 

“Good idea,” he said, “but I couldn’t last long with my 
present capital.” 

“How much have you?” 

“Eight cents.” 

“We’ll play for mills and use beans for chips. Ten beans 
to a cent.” 

The jail’s lone Ganadian, a young fellow from Vancouver 
named Ghristie, enthusiastically seconded the idea but 
added a restriction. 


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‘'Three bean raise limit and not more than two raises. 
Tve got only six cents.” 

Planter-bard Curran-Sharp signified his eagerness to par- 
ticipate by quoting from Shakespeare and stipulating that 
some one else had to furnish the beans. 

Bill Attenborough, a Eurasian sailor from Singapore, be- 
came the banker by supplying the beans. 

The game proved such an antidote to jail nerves that it 
grew into a Sunday night custom, with shrewd Curran- 
Sharp usually quitting a little ahead and Christie a little 
behind. Eric, Attenborough and I fluctuated violently in 
our wins and losses. We played as though the beans were 
dollar chips and the night I made my biggest killing— 36.6 
cents, and the other night I took my worst loss— 17.8 cents, 
were just as notable as if that many dollars had been in- 
volved. 

Occasionally we ended the game early enough to join 
in Sunday night singsongs in the yard. Although most of 
the singers were Hollanders, the tunes which predominated 
were American— from Stephen Foster to Irving Berlin. 
Sometimes the song fests changed into story telling bees. 
My favorites were told by two Dutch controleurs, as the 
civil service officers are called who have charge of areas 
which would correspond to a county in America. Each con- 
troleur is the supreme authority in his district, responsible, 
of course, to the Resident who would correspond to a gov- 
ernor of one of our states. 

Controleur De Mey told how, in the course of adminis- 
tering justice, he used an old fashioned hand-crank tele- 
phone as a “lie detector.” The idea was born one day when 
he suffered a slight shock on cranking the phone. There- 
after he laid two wires from the telephone into another 
room where he questioned native malefactors. 

He would have the suspect hold the wires and tell him, 

“Those are truth wires. If you do not tell the truth the 
wires will betray you.” 


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Then he would begin questioning. 


“Name? 




“Amat, Tuan.” 
“Age?” 

“Thirty, Tuan.” 
“Married?” 


“Yes, Tuan.” 

“Were you at home last night?” 

“Yes, Tuan.” 

De Mey knew Amat had not been at home, so he sig- 
naled his assistant who was standing at the telephone in 
the other room, then repeated the question. 

“You say you were at home last night?” 

“Yes, Tu . . .” Amat jumped and with a yell dropped 
the wires. 


“What is the matter, Amat?” 

“The wires, Tuan. They bit like many ants.” 

“That is how the wires talk when you do not tell the 
truth. Were you at home last night?” 

“No, Tuan.” 

Thereafter Amat told the truth. 


Controleur De Raat's story illustrated how the Malays 
looked upon the primitive people of a jungle tribe known 
as Kubu. They roam the jungle without habitation, living 
more like animals than men. A Malay taxidermist, envisag- 
ing the financial possibilities of exhibiting such a strange 
creature, sought from De Raat the necessary permission, 
“Long have I wished for the opportunity of mounting 
an Orang-Utan,” the taxidermist wistfully explained to De 
Raat, “but alas, that man of the forest [orang-utan literally 
means ‘man of the forest'] lives far north of here.” 

De Raat sympathized with the taxidermist's unfulfilled 
desire. 

“But now I have thought of an even better animal on 
which to practice my art,” the taxidermist said. “With your 
permission I would like to kill and stuff a Kubu.” 


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Another story that amused me was told by a Shell techni- 
cian named Nick Koot who joined us in 1943. It concerned 
the Dutch foreman of a machine shop and how he suc- 
ceeded in keeping his Javanese workmen busy while he was 
absent from the shop. He had a glass eye. Whenever he 
left the building he would remove the eye and place it on 
a special shelf so it could “look” at the room. Then he 
would tell his native workmen, 

“Don’t loaf while I’m gone. I have my eye on you!” 

As I returned to my clinic quarters one Sunday night 
after a singsong and story telling bee I heard the sound of 
music playing outside the jail. Palembang natives were hav- 
ing a singsong too, in a nearby public park. An orchestra 
alternated between native tunes, known as krontjon music, 
in which stringed instruments predominated, and Ameri- 
can popular airs in which piano, saxophone, drum and 
cymbal were loudest. 

Despite Japan’s New Order in East Asia, Sumatra natives 
still preferred American jazz when they gathered to sing 
and play on nights when there was a full moon. The orches- 
tra whammed away at “The Sheik of Araby,” “Roll Out 
the Barrel” and “Hold That Tiger.” Then it switched to 
one song that was compulsory at all gatherings and had 
been ever since the sons of Nippon arrived. The song was 
the wild, lilting sea chanty, Tai Hei Yo— O Great Pacific— 
which I had heard morning, noon and night from the first 
day I set foot in Japan to the day I left. It is one of the 
few truly Japanese songs with a western style, and is mar- 
tial, stirring music in any language. Dorothy G. Wayman 
of the Boston Globe, whose Japanese is so fluent she can 
even compose Japanese poetry, once told me that the popu- 
larity of Tai Hei Yo convinced her— in 1939— there was 
going to be war in the Pacific. Every foreigner from 1937 
onward in Japan heard Tai Hei Yo several times a day but 
few bothered to learn the words and fewer still to ponder 


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their significance. Here they are as translated by Dorothy 
Wayman into a ballad form westerners can understand. 

O Great Pacific 

I 

Come all you seamen and hark to my lay. 

The sea is our pathway, our faring forth gay. 

Chorus: O great Pacificl Gather us in. 

Friends, strangers, all brothers in kin; 

One world turned to peace let us win. 

II 

Now rings out the call for enthronement on high 
Of our glorious homeland, ordained from the sky. 

Chorus: O great Pacificl Your bidding is clear. 

We shall, on our voyage, still tireless steer 
Till the globe has been bound in one rope 
centered here. 

III 

Chrysthemum crest on our warships shall show 
Who can rule the blue furrows of sea here below. 

Chorus: O great Pacific! Shine, Rising Sun! 

Let thy crimson illumine the lands we have 
won 

To hold for our country years thousand and 
one. 


IV 

Long ages ago, our ancestors dear 

From ocean a foothold carved out for us here. 


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70 

Chorus: O great Pacificl Your treasure of space 
Spread out anew for the heroic race 
West-reaching for bounds to be added apace. 

V 

Tide favors us now— for the bold and the brave! 

Sing praise to our life-blood, the ocean’s blue wave. 

Chorus: O gredf Pacific! We come, we come! 

Fearless and dauntless, the sons of your 
foam; 

Ready to die for the sake of our home. 

O Great Pacific ended on one of those peculiarly Ori- 
ental dissonances which to a westerner seem merely a pause 
in the music. He waits for the next note but there is none. 
That is the end. I never got used to it and was irritated 
anew every time it happened. As Tai Hei Yo died dis- 
cordantly I damned it again, and then almost immediately 
was mollified when the orchestra suddenly began playing 
my favorite of all Japanese tunes, Ai Koku Koshin Kyoku— 
the Air Corps Patriotic March. It is a stirring, zestful, foot- 
lifting melody strangely combining the oomph of a Sousa 
march with the sigh of a bleeding heart. (I never heard the 
word Kamikaze until after the war, but the Air Corps 
March well expresses the sentiments that must have moti- 
vated those suicidal pilots.) 

As Dorothy Wayman translates the march its words paint 
the picture an aviator would see taking off just before 
dawn and reaching an altitude where the sun comes over 
the horizon to blaze a path of light over grey waves and tip 
with rose and gold the wraiths of cloud above the dead 
volcanic cone of Mt. Fuji. It suggests to the aviator how 
brief is a human life compared with the centuries of 
ancient Nippon. Ardently he desires that his short life 


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might burn for one glorious, dedicated instant, dyed with 
his lifeblood but adding a touch of beauty to his country's 
future— just as the crimson-hued cloud adds to Mt. Fuji's 
beauty. 

O Great Pacific and the Air Corps March were the songs 
to which Japan's soldier millions sailed and flew and 
marched to war— first in China and then down the Pacific — 
all the way down, over the Philippines, Malaya, the Indies, 
to the Coral Sea, 

Neither of these two songs is heard in Japan today, I am 
told, having been banned by Occupation authorities as 
unsuitable to Japan's new life. 

The Air Corps March shrilled through the night, over 
the jail wall and into the clinic where I sat reading. Allen 
snored behind his mosquito net. The orchestra blew out 
the last note of Ai Koku Koshin Kyoku, paused to catch its 
breath, then swung into their other favorite, “The Sheik of 
Araby." The music was not so loud it drowned the nearer 
sounds of night , . . the creaking of cicadas and buzzing 
of heavy, flying insects hypnotized by the light which we 
could burn all night because this was the hospital clinic. 
Suddenly a gecko lizard erupted into the hoarse, guttural 
squawks on which Malays lay bets, wagering how many 
times in succession the lizard will make his peculiar, double- 
squawk which sounds something like his name— gecko, 
gecko, gecko. After one initial squawk the lizard may sub- 
side and wait for answer from another lizard or he may 
signal any number of times up to nine. The highest I ever 
counted was seven. Consequently, whenever a gecko started 
squawking I listened, hoping he would make it nine. 

While listening and counting I tried to locate him. He 
sounded as though he was on the top outside ledge of the 
window, but lizards are ventriloquists. He might be any- 
where. My eyes roamed around the clinic, probing cob- 
webbed corners, peering under, then over, the table whereon 
lay bottles, bandages and a tin holding palm sugar. A mov- 


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72 

ing black line on the table caught my eye. Ants. Damn ants. 
They worked nights as well as days and they always bridged 
our ant traps. 

Ant traps were water-filled tins in which stood whatever 
the ants were not supposed to reach. A tin had to be suffi- 
ciently large in circumference so that a space of water 
intervened between the edge of the tin and the side of the 
object inside it. The object might be a smaller tin container 
or it might be a table leg. In our case all four legs of the 
table stood in such traps, as did the palm sugar on top of 
the table. Unless the water was changed at least every other 
day a film formed on the surface permitting one particularly 
agile species of ant to walk across it. This species was a 
reddish-grey variety of infinitesimal size and legs of such 
fragility as to be nearly invisible. Larger black ants broke 
through the film. We suspected, but could not prove, that 
the ants carried their own dust to cast into the water and 
form the film. Once I caught a black ant ferrying across 
on a straw he must have carried there especially for that 
purpose. Intensely interested fellow ants were watching 
his experiment. 

Palm sugar was an especial delight to the ant sweet 
tooth. Despite the tin’s supposed air tightness, ant proof- 
ness and its location in a water-filled ant trap, I knew that 
ants were swarming inside it because I had neglected to 
change the water for twenty-four hours. 

Ants and flies were supposed to be lizard meat, therefore 
Malays believed it good luck to have a gecko in the house, 
but our lizards scorned ants and only occasionally caught 
flies. They were more interested in signalling to each other. 
The lizard squawked again. 

Gecko, gecko, gecko, gecko, gecko, gecko, gecko . . . 
seven times. Would he make it eight? 

“Make it eight,” I said aloud. “Make it eight.” 

The lizard did not answer. 

“Nuts to you,” I said, and went outside foe water to 


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replenish the traps. Returning, I poured fresh water into 
the tins, breaking the stagnant film and throwing ant ranks 
into confusion. Signals flashed up and down the table leg, 
starting a wild retreat. Those above the trap were cut off. 
Members of the first rush already were struggling in the 
water. Wiser heads behind were searching for another route 
of escape. I chortled fiendishly and crawled into my mos- 
quito net. But my chortle was without real satisfaction. 
By morning they would have another bridge operating, or 
at least a ferry, and our sugar would be disappearing like 
snow in the June sun. 

Ants, I reflected, were like Japanese. They got into all 
kinds of mixups and stumbled around making a big fuss 
among themselves as to procedure but their persistence 
usually won. As Correspondent Percy Whiteing once told 
me while we sat in the lobby of Tokyo's Imperial Hotel; 

“The Japanese are like a bunch of ants trying to get a 
dead fly into their hole. You watch them milling around 
the fly, pulling in opposite directions, working at cross pur- 
poses, seemingly without any coordination or plan of action, 
and you go away contemptuous of the foolish things. But 
when you return in a little while you are just in time to see 
the fly disappearing down the hole. How did they do it? 
Damned if you know." 

I thought how right Whiteing's simile had been. For- 
eigners often laughed, or fumed, at the seemingly incredible 
stupidities and inefficiencies of the Japanese; at their endless 
bureaucratic rivalries and quarrels. The army jibed at the 
navy and the navy at the army and both at the govern- 
ment. Like scorpions, government bureaus stung them- 
selves with their own tails. Definite answers on anything 
usually were impossible to obtain. Yet their trains ran on 
time, their merchant ships maintained clock-like schedules 
and now their armies had swept over eastern Asia like a 
storm. In time we would win it all back. We would give 
them an awful pasting; smash their cities, seize their con- 


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quered tenitories and every mandated island and write the 
peace in Tokyo. 

We would squash them so thoroughly they could never 
rise again. But they would. Already they had won a victory 
we could never efface. They had demonstrated how the 
yellow man could fight the white man and win— if he had 
the will and the tools. Even when our armies returned, as 
they would, and beat them to a bloody pulp it would not 
prove— from a military standpoint and aside from the 
moral issue— that the Japanese had been wrong in trying. 
It would only demonstrate we won because we had more 
and bigger guns. 

Perhaps a few hundred years from now, I thought, his- 
torians may record how the Japanese and Chinese and 
other Orientals swallowed what remained of the white race 
because of the incredible stupidities of Occidentals— who 
could not live with themselves because of the different 
colors of their politics, nor with Asiatics because of the 
different colors of their skins. 

What was it I had learned as a kid in Sunday school? 
The words echoed in memory: “God made man in His 
own image and likeness.” 

How we are violating the image! 

Why can't we look beyond the color of politics and 
skins to the souls He created, too, and see there our fellow 
men? But that is neither scientific nor economic and this 
is the white man's age of Science and Economics, of mathe- 
matical gods and controlled populations. 

The Asiatics will continue multiplying, because they are 
not among those blessed with our birth control civilization, 
while we grow old and barren because children are not 
economic. Asia's peoples then will not have to have bigger 
and better guns because no matter how large or terrible 
our weapons they will do us little good. The “uneducated” 
millions of the Orient, who suffered little children to come 
unto them, will only have to pluck us as though we were 


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75 

a withered branch and drag us away, as the ants dragged 
the dead fly. They may not even have to pluck and drag 
us— only fill the vacuum created by our self-induced demise. 

I stirred in the mosquito net as the Air Corps March 
sounded again, ending the concert. The saxophone was 
tooteling hot notes, cymbals were crashing, strings were 
zinging high, wild harmonies. The song was being played 
as though the players liked it. 

I felt certain of one thing as I dozed off. The players 
did like it and they would not forget it, even after the 
Indies had been retaken and the Japanese had gone. 


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H erculean splashing at the bath tank and 
stentorian “good mornings” by the splashers 
awakened me and everybody else in the jail 
hospital one morning before dawn. The Twins were at it 
again. 

The Twins were a pair of middle-aged Hollanders whose 
affinity was not blood relationship but something even 
more binding — a mutual determination to live their own 
lives in their own way regardless of their companions. One 
such way was pre-dawn bathing. It gave them first crack 
at the contents of the small water tank. 

I lay boiling inside and wondering who would be the 
first to raise a protesting but futile voice; futile, for it 
would only start an argument and awaken still more 
sleepers. We had pleaded before with The Twins but they 
insisted on their “rights.” Mutterings from Allen’s corner 
told me he was fuming too. One small hope brought me a 
little comfort. Inevitably, some day The Twins would be 
clinic patients and I could burn their bottoms in a hot 
bath. But even that dream was spoiled by another thought 
as I speculated on medical ethics. Theoretically, a doctor 
was bound to treat his worst enemy to the best of his ability 
if the enemy should become a patient. I supposed the same 
code applied to all workers with the sick, even a non-pro- 
fessional volunteer like myself. Well, that killed any hopes 
for even indirect revenge on The Twins. 

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JUST ANOTHER DAY 77 

Daylight interrupted my speculations because daylight 
meant it was my turn to light the hospital fire and start 
boiling breakfast rice for dysentery patients. Morosely I 
arose and went out into the damp, chill air to struggle with 
the fire. The wood was both green and wet from night rain. 
It smoldered and smoked but would flame only spo- 
radically when I created a draft by alternately fanning up 
a breeze and blowing myself dizzy as ashes swirled into my 
face and eyes. 

The rice should have been cooked by roll call but when 
the bell rang I had just got the fire burning well. During 
the long wait for counting, the flames died and afterward 
I had to start fanning and blowing again. We supplied soft 
rice porridge not only to dysentery victims but to half a 
dozen non-hospitalized dyspeptics whose ulcers made them 
eligible. The dyspeptics were congenitally sour individuals 
whose dispositions matched their stomach linings. While I 
sweated over soft rice, flinching occasionally as little bubbles 
on its glutinous surface exploded and splashed blisteringly 
onto my bare belly, they stood around holding empty, 
accusing plates. One of them, he who had asked me for 
milk my first morning in jail, occasionally uttered a long, 
martyrous sigh. 

At long last the porridge was cooked and served. Now 
to make myself a cup of cocoa and relax for a little while 
before the clinic rush began. Last night a fellow had traded 
me enough powder to make one cup of cocoa for enough 
tobacco to make two cigarets. He had brought a tin of 
cocoa powder into jail with him and now, after all these 
months, was using it to obtain tobacco. On the edge of 
the fire I had heated a small tin of water. I poured into it 
the precious cocoa powder, let it bubble momentarily, then 
retired to the clinic with my drink. 

I had taken the first sip when in limped the martyrous 
dyspeptic. Among ourselves we called him Evangeline be- 
cause he always had a long tale of woe. 


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‘Tou must have swallowed your soft rice in one gulp/' 
I said. 

“I just couldn’t eat it,” he replied, “until the pain is 
relieved in this foot of mine.” 

“Clinic isn’t open yet,” I told him. 

“I know,” he said, “but my foot pains so excruciatingly 
I just couldn’t wait.” 

“Can’t you wait until I drink this cocoa?” 

“I thought I smelled cocoa. Where did you get it?” 

“From To jo by special courier.” 

“Cocoa would be a great relief to my ulcer,” he whined. 

“Scram,” I said. 

“Look at that red line,” he said, pointing to a spot just 
above his ankle. “Blood poisoning. I tell you I’m suffer- 
ing.” 

A thin red line was there all right, extending about six 
inches up from his bandaged foot. Lymphangitis. But not 
an emergency. Five minutes while I drank my cocoa 
wouldn’t make the slightest difference to it. 

Had it been any one else but Evangeline I wouldn’t have 
minded so much going to work immediately on his foot, 
but the combination of that whiner and my cocoa going 
cold, both climaxing the long battle with a stubborn fire 
and blistering soft rice, irritated me. 

“Sit down,” I said, “and wait until I drink this cocoa.” 

He sat down with a self-pitying moan. I took another 
drink. He whined again, 

“I wish I could find cocoa somewhere.” 

“Oh, hell,” I said, “you win. Shut up and take that 
bandage off your foot.” 

I walked out to the fire and looked at the five gallon 
kerosene tin of water being heated for baths. It was warm 
enough. I filled a tin and called Evangeline. By the time I 
had finished treating him the cocoa was cold. I set it back 
on the fire. 

At that moment Evangeline hobbled over, pulled a 


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JUST ANOTHER DAY 79 

smoldering stick from the fire to light his cigaret and 
knocked over my cup of cocoa, spilling every drop. 

There was a stunned silence while I mastered a blind 
urge to shove Evangeline into the fire and curse him as he 
burned; then I turned and stalked back into the clinic. 

Chief Cook Beissel, who had just come from the kitchen, 
followed me in to ask if a certain camp member, notorious 
for his wheedling, had been in the clinic to complain of 
earache. 

“Not yet,” I said. 

“Just as I suspected,” said Beissel. “Next time he comes 
around I'll give him a real earache.” 

The scrounger had called at the kitchen on three suc- 
cessive nights and asked for hot water on the plea he 
needed it for a persistent earache. Beissel gave it to him 
but the third time he followed the man to his cell and 
caught him pouring the hot water on coffee grounds. 

. “Oh,” explained the scrounger, “I don't put the water 
on my ear; I make coffee and it puts me to sleep so I don’t 
feel the pain.” 

For men like the scrounger with their spurious aches, 
and hypochondriacs with their daily sob stories. Doc West 
and J. Drysdale, the hospital “chemist,” had manufactured 
special sleeping powders and stomach pills. The powder 
was rice flour and the tablets were hardened rice paste- 
nothing else, but their psychological effect was wonderful. 

Perhaps the inventive Drysdale could figure out some- 
thing to silence The Twins at their early bathing. 

“You bet I will,” he told me when he came into the 
clinic a few minutes later. “Do they do it every morning?” 

“Nearly every morning.” 

“Let me sleep in here tonight and if they wake me up 
tomorrow morning I’ll go out and sock the blighters silly.” 

Doc West vetoed the offer. 

“Direct Action” Drysdale we called the Scot, who had 
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our genuine ointments and spurious powders he performed 
another invaluable camp service— manufacturing toothpaste 
which the hospital sold at cost. Drysdale's toothpaste for- 
mula was his secret, arrived at after long and tedious experi- 
ments with burned and ground bones, lime extracted from 
scrapings off whitewashed jail walls, a clay he dug up in 
the graveyard one day while helping bury a man, and vari- 
ous flavors ranging from a mosquito repellent known as 
white wood oil to the juice of small green limes. Whatever 
his exact formula, it was a triumph of ingenuity. And it 
worked. The cost came in buying the flavoring ingredients 
through a Chinese food contractor who brought our daily 
rations. As a profitable sideline to his toothpaste trade, 
Drysdale made toothbrushes from coconut and rope fibers. 

Clinic hours were from 8 to lo a.m. Doc had left and I 
was cleaning my instruments and tidying up about 10:15 
when in walked a customer who, instead of waiting in line 
like every one else, had been sitting across the yard read- 
ing a book. Now he wanted service. 

“Too late,” I told him. 

“I was busy and didn't notice the time.” 

“Nuts, I've been watching you over there reading a 
book.” 

Being tripped up annoyed him. He snapped, 

“The clinic is here for service, isn't it?” 

“During regular hours, yes,” I said. “After regular hours, 
for emergency only.” 

Just then Jan Rombeek, a big Dutch sailor who worked 
in the kitchen, came in to have a foot dressing changed. 
We treated kitchen staffers whenever they could get away 
from their work. I swabbed and rebandaged the foot and 
Rombeek left. When I looked up the other man was still 
there. Only now he had removed his shorts and was wait- 
ing confidently for “Palembang Bottom” treatment. 

The morning was nearly done. I had items to gather for 
the jail weekly newspaper, “Camp News,” and this man 


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who would not inconvenience himself to take his turn in 
line was insisting on special service. 

‘‘Okay/’ I said, “bend over.” 

He bent over with a smirk that said, “I knew you would 
treat me.” 

I turned him around so his bare, spot-covered posterior 
was to the door. 

“Now take a deep breath,” I said. 

“Why?” he asked. “What’s breathing got to do with it?” 

“Do as you’re told,” I snarled, “or I’ll ram these scissors 
into you.” 

He inhaled. 

“Now, hold it until I tell you to let it out.” 

He held it. 

I tiptoed out of the clinic and began my weekly round 
of news gathering. 

As the result of a three-way tie which ended a voting 
contest to select a name for the publication. Camp News 
had two subtitles: Hot & Less Hot News, and Terompak 
Echo. “Hot & Less Hot” derived from a peppery sauce, 
called sambal, served daily with rice. The sambal came in 
two strengths, “hot” for old Indies hands whose taste buds 
had long since been corroded by fiery peppers, and “less 
hot” for neophytes such as I. Hot sambal was so hot it 
made a man’s eyes water, his nose run, and caused fits of 
sneezing; nevertheless, devotees relished it. 

“Terompak Echo” derived from the clatter of our wooden 
sandals on concrete floors. Terompak was the Malay name 
for the sandals which we carved ourselves from firewood. 
Terompak making was a major jail industry and the clatter 
of terompaks day and night was a noise as familiar as our 
own voices. 

Our artist with the jaw-breaking name, Th. J. A. Ronkes- 
Agerbeek, solved the three-way-tie dilemma with a cover 
design incorporating all three ideas. The same cardboard 


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covers were used for each weekly issue, of which four copies 
were made, two in English and two in Dutch, and passed 
around from cell to cell. 

Despite the contest and resultant cover, the newspaper 
continued to be known simply as '‘Camp News.” We used 
the word “camp” because, although we lived in a jail, we 
called our community a camp. Camp members were called 
internees. The reasons were technical as well as psychologi- 
cal: technically, we were not in jail but in an internment 
camp for civilians; psychologically, “internee” sounded less 
harsh than “prisoner.” And, finally, the Japanese explicitly 
told us more than once that we were in an internment 
camp and not a jail. 

First call on my news gathering round was at the kitchen 
to get from Beissel the weekly figure on Japanese-issued, 
as distinct from Camp-purchased, rations. 

In return for judicious bribes the Japanese permitted the 
Chinese contractor who brought our regular rations to bring 
extra rations also, which we paid for out of a common 
fund. Every man in jail was assessed for the fund whether 
or not he had money. This seeming magic was possible 
because a number of Hollanders had entered jail carrying 
extraordinarily large sums of money. The Resident of 
Palembang, an official corresponding to a Governor in the 
United States, in the name of the Dutch government bor- 
rowed from those men and loaned to penniless men who 
signed promissory notes payable, without interest, after the 
war. 

British capital was small compared with Dutch and most 
of it was in Straits Dollars or Pounds Sterling, which gave 
both Dutch and British money lenders opportunity to ex- 
change at exorbitant rates for their own profit. Eventually, 
due to the continued petitions from us, the Japanese 
stepped in and exchanged the money on a dollar-for-guilder 
basis, using Japanese invasion currency. Some money lenders 


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were kind enough to make refunds to those for whom they 
had exchanged money at a high rate but others were not, 
using the emergency to fatten their pocketbooks. 

Sporadically, but only half heartedly, we debated the 
pros and cons of the Resident confiscating all monies from 
every prisoner and thus creating a common pool that would 
accomplish two things: First, we could budget with cer- 
tainty, knowing the exact limits of our financial resources. 
Second, it would conserve every penny by depriving wealthy 
men of spending money and thus eliminate the thriving 
black market. But the psychology of private enterprise was 
so deeply ingrained in us that such debates never pro- 
gressed beyond the talking stage. Not even the absolutely 
penniless men were in unanimity on such a plan; for many 
already were able to make money in jail and they did not 
wish to surrender even tiny earnings over and above the 
common assessment. 

Money was earned by various kinds of trading or manu- 
facturing. I never failed to be astonished anew at the 
variety of tools disclosed on a walk through jail. Some were 
homemade, some were not. There were saws, hammers, 
hatchets, files, heavy chopping knives called parangs, pliers, 
screw drivers, and one man even had made a plane, carving 
it from a wooden block and fitting it with a metal cutter 
filed from a piece of iron. How they had acquired or made 
all those things was a mystery to me who had consistently 
flunked my manual training class as a boy in grammar 
school. After first confiscating everything with a cutting 
edge, the Japanese relaxed, evidently secure in the knowl- 
edge there was no place to go even if we did carve our way 
out. 

Beds, chairs and stools were the most common manu- 
factures. Empty rice sacks became ‘‘upholstery" while fire- 
wood properly tooled or cell door bars heated and bent to 
correct shape supplied the frames. 

Trading of all kinds flourished, from simple barter to 


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complicated black market deals involving bribed guards. 
Black marketing really boomed when, under guard, work- 
ing parties marched every day from the jail to a site on the 
outskirts of Palembang to build a camp of wooden bar- 
racks with palm-thatch roofs. Some day we would occupy 
the camp. Places on the working party were eagerly sought 
for three reasons: the guards allowed us to buy from 
peddlers at the site, and we could salvage precious small 
pieces of lumber; enroute, we passed within hailing distance 
of the Women's Camp and men could wave at figures they 
knew included their wives; we could breathe free air outside 
jail walls. 

For a time in Palembang Jail it was possible for wealthy 
men, at a black market kitchen built behind the jail 
kitchen, to eat steak, chicken and duck while ordinary men 
lived on regular rations of rice and vegetables. Wiser men 
with money conserved their cash or converted it into barter- 
able goods against the day when goods would count more 
than money. Or, through the Chinese contractor, they 
bought mosquito nets, mattresses, khaki clothing and tinned 
goods such as powdered milk and corned beef. 

Less wealthy individuals obtained mosquito nets by club- 
bing together and buying one net which they cut into 
pieces. The pieces were fitted over small frames into which 
a man could put his head at night for sleeping. The rest 
of his body depended for protection on clothing, rice sack 
or blanket. 

The Chinese contractor was an enterprising salesman 
who started in business with a pushcart and soon had a 
truck powered by Japanese-supplied gasoline. So successful 
was the arrangement to all concerned, including the Jap- 
anese, that we were able to set up a camp store, called a 
toko, selling at cost to internees. Because supply never 
equalled demand, a ration system was worked out whereby 
each block of cells got its quota of any incoming goods. 

Another source of income to poor men was corvee, the 


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name we used for compulsory performance of necessary 
camp labor. Every able-bodied man had to take his turn on 
the various working parties— kitchen, sanitary, wood-chop- 
ping. A wealthy man could hire some one to take his place. 
Often such hiring was done, not because the hirer wanted 
to avoid working but to help a penniless man earn money. 

All these activities required organization and we had one, 
headed by Dutch Controleur D. J. A. van der Vliet, who 
assumed command in the very beginning and did a splendid 
pioneering job. We worked out a system whereby elections 
were held every six months to determine leaders of the 
British and Dutch communities, members of the “Camp 
Committee,” and the liaison man between the camp and 
Japanese. 

Routine and humdrum as was our community life there 
was enough activity within it to furnish items for Camp 
News. Therefore, my weekly round always yielded some- 
thing. 

After obtaining the week's ration figures from Beissel 
I called on my next information source, Harold Lawson, 
the jail librarian, to learn how many books had been 
received during the week. Lawson, who had been a type- 
writer salesman in Singapore, had conceived and carried 
out the idea of buying books through the Chinese con- 
tractor. Japanese guards acquiesced. The contractor brought 
books which natives had looted from Dutch homes in 
Palembang when the residents were interned. Many an 
internee who donated to the library fund discovered he had 
paid for books stolen from his own house. Within a com- 
paratively short time Lawson had built up a library of 
approximately one thousand volumes, half of them in 
English. 

Against my better judgment I next called on Peniyce, 
chairman of the British committee, and immediately be- 
came involved in a heated argument over censorship. He 


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insisted on the right to approve or disapprove publication 
of anything concerning the British community, which at 
that particular time was quarreling over retaining him in 
office. 

The fight was over whether or not we as a camp should 
pursue an “active" or “passive" policy in our relations with 
the Japanese. The “active" school, headed by Direct Action 
Drysdale and Bard Curran-Sharp, favored making formal, 
written demands on the Japanese that we be allowed to 
send our names to the International Red Cross and that we 
be given more medical facilities and better rations. The 
“passive" school, headed by Penryce and having the sym- 
pathy of Camp Leader Van der Vliet, opposed such action, 
saying it might provoke the Japanese and cause them to 
treat us still more harshly. I personally sided with the 
“active" school. 

After a number of fiery sessions in the British committee, 
Curran-Sharp and Drysdale resigned their membership, to 
which they had been elected. Curran-Sharp posted a public 
notice of his reasons. 

I wished to print in Camp News statements from leaders 
of both sides. However, Penryce refused to speak for publi- 
cation, and further told me, 

“I forbid you to publish anything about this matter." 

“You're wasting your breath," I replied. “It's going to be 
published." 

“I'll go to the Camp Committee and have the issue 
suppressed." 

“Go ahead. You'll only hurt your own case by losing the 
support of many who now are behind you." 

If things came to a showdown and the Committee sup- 
ported Penryce, I knew Camp News certainly could be 
suppressed, but I doubted that the Committee would risk 
a showdown. Its members were firm adherents of the peace- 
at-any-price philosophy. They would compromise, I thought. 


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A compromise was worked out, before going to press, 
whereby several letters to the editor on both sides of the 
quarrel were published in the English edition but not in 
the Dutch. The basic issue was temporarily settled by the 
British community deposing Penryce from leadership and 
the next day promptly re-electing him but with a mandate 
to pursue a more vigorous policy toward the Japanese. 

The whole episode sounds silly at this writing, but men 
do peculiar things in confinement. In fairness to Penryce 
and those who believed as he did I must say that the active 
vs. passive policy was a contentious subject throughout our 
imprisonment. The rightness or wrongness of either side 
was never decided satisfactorily. 

After my futile argument with Penryce I dropped into 
the cell of New Zealand Burt to ask if he would give the 
next public lecture which Camp News sponsored weekly. 
Burt once had been a member of a British expedition to 
the Arctic. 

“I think the boys would enjoy hearing some more about 
your experiences with Polar Bears,” I said. 

Burt agreed they would. His previous lecture had only 
scratched the surface of anecdotes about the adventure. 

As we discussed it I looked around Burt's cell. Designed 
originally for one native prisoner, it was a little over five 
feet wide and nearly filled by the cement sleeping bench. 
Three men slept on the platform and Burt slept on the floor 
in the narrow space between the end of the bench and the 
door. Their bedding consisted of a rice sack apiece. Be- 
tween their bodies and the concrete was one woven grass 
mat. There were no shelves or hooks on the bare walls, so 
their eating utensils and other belongings lay beside them 
on the bench or floor. The odor from an open drain a few 
feet outside the door filled the cell. 

“You can almost cut it with a knife, can’t you?” Burt 
remarked sniffing. 


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He waved a wad of papers. 

“I found these in the trash can outside the guardroom/' 
he said. “They're old prison records." 

They looked as though they had been tom from a ledger. 
The pages were ruled in vertical columns and horizontal 
lines, with names of prisoners, their dates of admission and 
other data filled in. 

“I'm going to use the unwritten spaces to keep a diary," 
Burt said. “I just wrote a note in it to the wife telling her 
it's the little things I miss most, things like shaving gear and 
handkerchiefs and a comb and needle and thread. 

“I told her that confinement under these circumstances 
is making men irritable and we're all losing our tempers 
over trifles." 

A cockroach appeared from under the bench, waved 
exploratory antennae and started sidling along where floor 
joined wall. Burt whipped off his terompak, struck at the 
cockroach but missed. The insect buzzed its undeveloped 
wings and sailed across the room. Burt made another pass 
and it scuttled for the dark opening under the bench. 
Angered at his second miss Burt made a third vicious swing 
and lost his grip on the terompak which clattered out of 
sight under a bench. It must have hit a rat hiding in there 
for the startled rodent popped out of the black recess, 
leaped across the floor at our feet, shot out the door, cleared 
the walk in another jump and disappeared into the drain. 

“What do you think of that?" Burt asked. “I'll bet the 
Japs had that rat wired. My wife would never believe it. 
Flying cockroaches and fifth column rats." 

I left Burt and continued my rounds, exchanging gossip 
here and there and feeling around for the source of the 
latest fantastic rumor that Americans had landed on Bali. 

Phoney rumors were my pet peeves. Few things nettled 
me more than hearing men solemnly proclaim as “facts" 
stories that could not possibly be true. Perhaps my special 


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aversion to them sprang from having, as a reporter, chased 
down so many baseless rumors. Many tales bruited about 
Palembang Jail were so patently false they would have 
aroused only contempt in the most juvenile cub reporter. 
Yet men of supposedly mature minds accepted them. I 
thought they were bad for morale because they did violence 
not only to men’s good sense but to their hopes. 

The Bali story, I thought, was of the harmful variety. It 
sounded as though it had a source common to many pre- 
vious yarns which stank. I decided to trace it. I had been 
backtracking and eliminating for several days when I left 
Burt’s cell to resume the hunt. The finger pointed at a cer- 
tain garrulous Hollander who was too coy about his source. 
He was sitting on a pile of firewood near the kitchen when 
I arrived to try again. We bantered the latest rumors for a 
while. Finally I tried a shot in the dark. 

“A fellow told me last night where you got that Bali 
landing story.” 

“Nonsense,” he laughed, “no one could possibly know.” 

“You mean no one outside your private circle, don’t 
you?” 

The laugh died and he looked at me suspiciously. 

“What do you mean, private circle?” 

“Oh, just the other members of the seance. He said you 
got it from a Ouija board!” 

He started and swore. The shot in the dark had hit home. 

“Who told you? We agreed . . . well, who told you?” 

“He said he thought you moved the planchette yourself.” 

“I did not. We didn’t use a planchette. And who was it?” 

“He said you did. Where did you get it?” 

“He lies. It was no planchette. We used a small pointer 
suspended by a string. None of us touched the string. Who 
told you?” 

“No one told me. I just guessed.” 

He spluttered like an emptying fizz bottle but apparently 
decided to make the best of it. 


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90 BY EASTERN WINDOWS 

“Don’t tell any one else, will you? If you do, it will spoil 
a good joke.” 

He forced a laugh. “Ha, ha. A good joke, isn’t it?” 

He was trying to pass off as a joke his responsibility for 
starting not only the Bali landing story but others equally 
spurious that had falsely buoyed hopes of gullible fellow 
prisoners. 

Months previously the spiritualist and a few others like 
him had labeled me a defeatist for insisting the war was 
going to last a long time and that we should conserve our 
resources for starvation days ahead. They resented Camp 
Committee efforts to curb individual spending and conserve 
our resources, as well as Camp News jibes at the black 
kitchen. This pseudo-spiritualist and two other men had 
once constituted themselves a deputation to investigate me. 
With long faces and grave voices they had asked if it were 
true I had said the war would last three or four years. 

“That’s correct,” I answered. 

“Impossible,” they said. “We will be free within six 
months.” 

All this, the deputation’s call and the conversation with 
the spiritualist, occurred in 1942, before the war was a year 
old. In April, 1942, those men had been confident we would 
be free by June. In June they were betting on August. In 
August they predicted, without qualification and with 
assurances of having “confidential information,” that Japan 
would collapse by October 1st— 1942! Ardently as we all 
longed for freedom and the war’s end, I thought there was 
no excuse for such wishful prognostications. 

I reminded them of the publicly announced Allied policy 
of finishing the job in Europe before turning full heat on 
Japan. That brought up another tender subject. They could 
think of the war in Europe only in terms of a second front 
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JUST ANOTHER DAY 91 

were as secondary to them as the misty interior of China. I 
said that books and articles I had read on military strategy 
in the Eastern Hemisphere seemed pretty well agreed that 
North Africa would be a decisive field. We had to neutral- 
ize Dakar to safeguard our South Atlantic supply routes; 
and we had to control North Africa for the sake of Middle 
East oil and Mediterranean sea lanes; only then could we 
really crack down in Europe. 

'And that seems to indicate, first of all, a second front 
in North Africa," I said, "if you see what I mean.” 

They did not and, fantastic as it may sound reading this 
in 1949, my words anent North Africa convinced the 
deputation that I was mentally off balance. In fact, one of 
the men, a little ferret we of the hospital staff nicknamed 
“Guy Fawkes,” immediately began spreading a story I was 
losing my mind. When I left for Charitas without having 
been previously ill, Guy Fawkes cited that as proof of my 
insanity. 

He told men who later told me, “Doctor West wanted 
to get McDougall out of here before the Japanese learned 
he was insane and did something to him.” 

The nickname “Guy Fawkes” was invented by Doc 
West, who said that, given a cloak and hood, the ginger- 
bearded little Dutchman would be a walking cartoon of 
the seventeenth century conspirator of that name notorious 
in English history. Guy was a furtive man whose childhood 
reading must have been loaded with spy stories. To him 
life was a vast, dark PLOT in which he was a counter- 
conspirator. He talked out of the side of his mouth and 
often looked quickly over his shoulder to catch any Japa- 
nese agent who might be spying on him. 

In the beginning we had taken Guy Fawkes seriously be- 
cause he was one of the senior government men. We could 
smile indulgently at his eccentricities because, we thought, 
he really had secret connections with the outside that en- 


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92 

abled him to obtain authentic radio news. He would appear 
at the clinic regularly once a week and read news items from 
sheets of paper concealed in a book. 

Perhaps he did have a genuine “pipe-line” during the 
first months of imprisonment for his reports certainly 
sounded conservative and authentic. But if he did have, he 
either lost it and reverted to other and less reliable sources 
or his outside informant did, because gradually the reports 
changed from what sounded like actual Allied radio an- 
nouncements to stories that must have been dream world 
broadcasts. 

The night before I had gone to Charitas Allen said, “I’ll 
lay you five to one that within twenty-four hours Guy 
Fawkes will have the ‘inside story’ of why you went.” 

“That’s no wager, that’s money in the bank,” I said, “but 
we could bet on what the ‘inside story’ will be.” 

Allen thought awhile, then decided, 

“He’ll say you’ve lost your mind and Doc had to get you 
out of here.” 

I didn’t think Guy would go that far so I took the bet. 
My return from Gharitas, of course, proved Guy's insanity 
story false, and when, in late November 1942, Singapore 
newspapers, relayed from the hospital, told of Allied land- 
ings in North Africa, my stock as a prophet soared con- 
siderably. Two of the deputation who had previously inter- 
rogated me called to apologize. Guy was not with them but 
later he began coming around again as if nothing had hap- 
pened and resumed reading his “radio reports.” 

After uncovering the Ouija board story— which I could 
refer to only obliquely— I spent most of the afternoon 
typing Gamp News and carefully working around two 
“holes” in the manuscript to be filled with cartoons by the 
staff artist, former police commissioner Ronkes-Agerbeek. 

That night, as Allen and I sat discussing the latest 
genuine good news, an account in an old Singapore paper 


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JUST ANOTHER DAY 93 

telling of fighting in the Solomons and admitting loss of 
the airfield at Guadalcanal, Guy Fawkes walked in. 

“That is only a fraction of the truth,” said Guy Fawkes, 
peering suspiciously under the clinic table. “The whole 
truth is that Americans have captured all of the East Indies 
except Java and Sumatra. Maybe they even have landed in 
Java but my source has not yet been able to confirm it and 
you know how careful I am about not accepting anything 
until it has been confirmed.” 

“Very interesting,” said Allen. “Please go on.” 

Guy Fawkes tiptoed to the clinic door, looked out, tip- 
toed back again and motioned us to stand close to him. 

“You must keep this absolutely confidential,” he said 
sotto voce. 

We crossed our hearts and bent down so our ears would 
be closer to the great secret about to emerge from behind 
Guy's ginger beard. He hissed: 

“The Americans are about to land here. Soon we will be 
free.” 

This was in November, 1942. 

Allen and I straightened up and looked at each other, 
then at Guy Fawkes. 

1 decided I was sick of the little man and his aberrations. 

“There's an old saying in America,” I said, “that goes, 
‘No matter how thick you slice it, it's still baloney.' Does 
that mean anything to you?” 

I could almost see his brain cogs grinding as he frowned 
and thought and finally delivered the results of his cogita- 
tion. 

“I suppose it is a code but I will have to think longer to 
learn its meaning.” 

Had anyone else replied thus I would have seen the 
humor but coming from Guy Fawkes it only intensified my 
aversion for the man. So for his benefit I spelled out the 
meaning of ‘no matter how thick you slice it, it's still 
baloney' and concluded by saying, “That's what I think of 


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94 

your confidential information that all the islands have been 
captured except Java and Sumatra.” 

He stalked out of the clinic. 

“You’re on his black list now for sure,” Allen said. “Now 
you’ll never get any more news straight from the fighting 
front.” 

“We hope,” I said, and began rigging my mosquito net 
with intentions of retiring early. 

Just then Evangeline walked into the clinic. 

“My stomach is simply awful tonight,” he whined, 
“haven’t you anything that will settle it?” 

Evangeline’s appearance, coupled with his act in the 
morning that ended in the loss of my cocoa, made a paren- 
thesis around the whole irritating day starting with The 
Twins and their pre-dawn splashing. 

“You humor him,” I growled to Allen and walked out- 
side, only to stumble over a stool someone had left in the 
middle of the walk. I limped back into the clinic, surveyed 
a long abrasion on my shin and reached for the bottle of 
potassium permanganate solution. 

“Hold it a minute,” said Evangeline, “there’s a visitor 
on your neck.” 

He picked a familiar inseet from my collar and held it 
up to the light. 

“It’s a big one,” he said, and popped the fat, red bedbug. 


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Mew Year Inventory 


T he Women's Camp crowned a low hill on the 
outskirts of Palembang. Every day our working 
party of fifty men passed within a few hundred 
yards of it on the hike from jail to the camp we were build- 
ing for ourselves. 

In pre-war Palembang what was now the Women's Camp 
had been a group of fourteen medium-sized houses com- 
prising a compact little residential section of Dutch fam- 
ilies. The Japanese had strung barbed wire around the hill 
and turned the area into an internment camp, packing in 
women and children forty to a house and ten to a garage. 
Between the lower houses and the barbed wire fence was a 
low retaining wall and an open space where women 
gathered daily to wave and call to the working party as it 
hiked past. 

Once a week I laid off my hospital job and joined the 
working party in order to breathe free air outside the jail 
and see what I could pick up at the new camp site. Most of 
the building work was done by native laborers. We did little 
but go through the motions for the benefit of Japanese in- 
spectors who came around infrequently. They appeared 
satisfied with our pretenses. It was a period of leniency. 
The working project lasted through the last half of 1942. 
It began when a Japanese civil administration superseded 
the military government of Palembang. 

We marched to work in line, two abreast, with guards 

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96 

flanking us and bringing up the rear. Tlie guards during 
this period were not Japanese soldiers but native police, 
mostly Javanese, who had been members of the colonial 
police force before the war and who were as friendly to us 
as they dared be. They allowed us to wave and shout back 
to the women. The distance was too great to distinguish 
words but the women's concerted voices, high pitched and 
vibrant, made cheerful sounds. Husbands and wives had 
worked out methods of identifying each other by signals 
with hats or colored clothes. The signals were arranged by 
smuggled correspondence via the Javanese police, who also 
guarded the Women’s Camp, or through the Charitas let- 
ter system. 

The Javanese police sometimes carried other things than 
letters. One day I noticed an internee making what looked 
like splints. Since no prisoners had broken bones I dis- 
played my curiosity. They were splints. But for whom? 

“The Women’s Camp.” 

“Women’s Camp?” 

“Yes. Mrs, Koenes broke her leg.” 

“How?” 

“She was standing on a wall, waving to the working party, 
and fell off.” 

I laughed and told him, “You’d better make some more 
splints in case the Colijn girls fall off their roof,” 

The Colijn girls, Helen, Antoinette, and Alette, daugh- 
ters of the oil man, did their waving from astride the ridge 
of a rooftop. Antoinette and Alette were ’teen-agers and 
Helen had just moved into her twenties. They were husky 
young women with strong lungs. Their piercing voices and 
wild gyrations as they signaled to their father in the work- 
ing party caused our Javanese guards to remark they must 
be crazy. 

I first met Helen when, after swimming all afternoon in 
the Indian Ocean, I was pulled into a lifeboat. She was the 


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97 

only woman in the boat and during the ensuing thirsty six- 
day voyage to Sumatra we became well acquainted. When 
we landed on the isolated southern tip of Sumatra the 
majority aboard elected to take the boat and sail to the 
nearest Japanese occupied port to surrender and obtain 
medical aid for a seriously wounded passenger. The rest of 
us, including Helen and her father, hiked north along the 
beach. On the third day we found another lifeboat and its 
passengers. Antoinette, Alette, and Oosten, the Shell 
executive, were among them. 

A machine gun slug from one of the planes which sank 
our ship and strafed us in the water had ripped Antoinette's 
arm open to the bone from elbow to wrist. Salt was our only 
antiseptic and rags torn from clothing our only bandages. 
Wet dressings made from those materials kept Antoinette’s 
arm from going septic. Although she must have suffered un- 
mercifully during our three-week hike along the coast she 
never mentioned pain. She had her father’s courage and 
tenacity and despite her wound was determined to escape 
with him if we could get away. 

The girls were in Java when Colijn was captured in 
Tarakan and dispatched as a hostage under guard to warn 
authorities in another oil port, Balikpapan, not to destroy 
the installations before the Japanese arrived. If they were 
destroyed, said the Japanese commander, the women of 
Tarakan would be shot. Colijn escaped by a clever ruse. 
Balikpapan was razed by the Dutch to prevent its use after 
capture and Colijn went on to Java. His wife was among the 
women of Tarakan. After the war I learned the women 
were not executed as the Japanese had threatened, but 
Colijn had no way of knowing that when I met him fleeing 
Java. 

The day before Christmas I marched out with the work- 
ing party. As usual we began to wave and shout when in 
sight of the Women’s Camp. But the women were silent. 


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standing motionless in the open space. The Colijn girls on 
the roof were quiet too. Their stillness silenced us. We 
slowed to a halt and asked each other, in whispers, what was 
wrong. 

The answer came in song. Across the no-man's land 
which separated us sounded the melody of “Come All Ye 
Faithful.” Our guards were as astonished as we and let us 
stand there listening. The music softened on the second 
song, “Silent Night, Holy Night,” and grew stronger on 
the third, a Dutch carol. Leading the singers was a woman 
in the habit of a nun. Her arm rose and fell, as though wav- 
ing a baton. 

The guards finally asked us to move on. 

“Please walk,” they said in Malay. “Japanese may come.” 

We walked, moving quietly and slowly in order to hear 
those voices as long as possible. 

That was the second time the women had risked trouble 
in order to cheer their men. Months before, on the birthday 
of Queen Wilhelmina, a holiday the Dutch celebrate as do 
we the Fourth of July, the women astounded us by flying 
two Dutch flags. As the working party passed, the flags 
were raised from the Colijn girls’ rooftop perch while other 
women on the ground waved colors of the House of Orange 
and cheered madly. Probably that was the only time be- 
tween Palembang’s capture and its liberation that Dutch 
colors flew in the city. 

Wilhelmina’s birthday is August 31st and on that date 
in 1942 we still had been able, by bribery and good luck, to 
purchase food enough to celebrate, even in a jail. 

Still flush with guilders brought into internment, the 
Dutch had transformed the jail yard into a midway and 
staged an auction “horse race.” Horses and riders were ad- 
vanced by dice throws around a white-washed track. Finan- 
cial proceeds were split between the kitchen and hospital 
funds. The day had begun with religious services and sing- 


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ing of a Te Deum. Father Bakker’s choir gave its first offi- 
cial performance in the late afternoon. Dinner was colossal; 
it included meat and potatoes. 

The birthdays of Princess Juliana * and her consort, 
Prince Bernhard, also were observed by extra food and cof- 
fee. Nor were Dutch holidays the only ones celebrated. The 
birthday of England’s King George was marked by a special 
meal and, although there were only two Americans in jail, 
the Fourth of July was a big day too. 

Festivities had begun early on that July 4, 1942, my first 
Independence Day in captivity. Everstijn, manager of the 
toko, had galloped into the clinic bearing two plates, one 
for Eric and one for me. Each plate contained two slices 
of buttered toast, a piece of canned salmon and two sardines, 
carrots sliced to resemble bacon, pickles and hot chili. On a 
piece of paper was written, ‘‘With compliments of the toko 
staff.” Chief Cook Beissel came in a few minutes later with 
two more plates, each bearing one fried duck egg and a 
note, “With compliments of the kitchen staff.” 

Official congratulations by the Dutch and British com- 
munities were tendered by the Resident of Palembang, 
Oranje; the Burgomaster of Palembang, Hildebrand; the 
Camp Leader, Van der Vliet, and British Leader Penryce. 
They, and many others, called to shake hands, wish us a 
happy day and express hopes that “the Allies soon will be 
here.” 

The Pacific war was only eight months old on July 4, 
1942. 

The unexpected breakfast donated by the toko and 
kitchen staffs was only a starter. At noon we opened a long 
hoarded tin of bully beef and shared it with Father Elling, 
who had brought presents of tobacco. 

That night Allen was host at a gala dinner in the clinic. 
The medicine stand was cleared of bottles, covered with 
my bed sheets and became a banquet table. Decorations 

* Wilhelmina abdicated and Princess Juliana became Queen in 1948. 


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were three paper flags— Dutch, British and American— and 
green hedge leaves stuck into two measuring glasses. Around 
the table sat Camp Leader Van der Vliet, Oosten and 
Colijn, my companions of shipwreck and jungle trek; Chief 
Cook Beissel, Dr. Hollweg, Poet Curran-Sharp, Doc West, 
Allen, Eric and I. 

Beissel himself cooked the dinner, a sumptuous nasi 
goreng— fried rice garnished with meat and condiments. 

Dr. Hollweg astounded us by producing a fifth of Eng- 
lish gin which he had brought into jail when first interned. 
We mixed the gin with water, flavored it with limes pur- 
chased through a guard, and had gin rickeys. Allen proposed 
the first toast. We all stood as he raised his tin cup and 
said: 

“Gentlemen, I give you the President of the United 
States of America, Queen Wilhelmina and King Ceorge of 
England.” 

We drank. 

That was the first time I ever felt genuinely patriotic on 
the Fourth of July. 

Half a year had passed since that red letter day and here 
it was the day before Christmas and another surprising 
celebration. The women's Christmas serenade had been 
such an emotional surprise that working party members 
were silent during the rest of the hike to the new camp site. 

When we arrived, we dispersed around the rectangular 
field where wooden barracks and a high barbed wire fence 
were rising. This area on the edge of the city long ago had 
been sectioned off into streets, but only a few houses had 
been built, and undergrowth covered the intervening fields. 
Malay peddlers hung around the camp site and haggled 
with us over prices. One peddler, by prearrangement, had 
a fried chicken for Colijn. During the morning Colijn 
slipped unobserved into some undergrowth on one side of 
the area. Then, on hands and knees or sometimes flat on 


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his belly, he snaked through the area of fields and houses be- 
tween us and the Women's Camp. 

He reached the Women's Camp fence at a point which 
was screened from the sentry boxes by bushes. His three 
daughters were waiting, also by prearrangement. Gleefully 
they received the chicken and talked in excited whispers 
with their father. He kissed them, through the fence, then 
started the long wriggle back to our camp site. After the 
war Antoinette told me the sequel. 

The farewell had been witnessed by another woman who 
betrayed them to the Japanese guard, hoping thereby to 
gain some advantage for herself. However, they were back 
in their quarters and the chicken was hidden before their 
betrayer returned with the guard, who took them to the 
commandant, who in turn summoned the leader of the 
Dutch women in camp. She was a nun. Mother Laurentia, 
a school teacher and musician. She it was who had led the 
women in their Christmas caroling to us. 

Mother Laurentia listened to the betrayer's accusation. 
Coolly she told the woman, “You are dreaming. You never 
saw a man talking to these girls." 

To the guard commander she said, 

“This woman is not responsible for her actions. Please 
excuse her. Obviously a man could not come to our fence 
without your sentries seeing him. She is suffering hallucina- 
tions." 

Convinced, the guard commander berated the woman 
tattle-tale and dismissed the case. 

“That was the third time Daddy visited us at the fence," 
Antoinette told me. “They were happy moments. We ad- 
mired him so much for coming. And how it bucked us up 
to have him right there." 

They never saw him again. He was dead when liberation 
came. 

As we hiked back to jail that Christmas eve of 1942, we 
discussed how best to reciprocate the women's carols. We 


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were still debating when we reached the front gates and 
were counted through. 

Shortly after dark, prisoners gathered in the yard while 
Reverend Wardle led Englishmen in singing Yuletide 
hymns and songs, creating an atmosphere for listening to 
Dickens’ Christmas Carol. Reading key passages and syn- 
opsizing in story-telling fashion what lay between, Allen 
recited the tale of Scrooge and Marlowe, the Cratchets and 
Tiny Tim. 

Christmas morning everyone went to church, some at- 
tending services of all three faiths, starting with the Cath- 
olics’ High Mass at 6:30 a.m. The clergy had spent days 
disguising their Cell Block No. 3 as a church. They could 
not hide the barred windows or grey walls or cement sleep- 
ing benches but they softened them with greenery, flowers, 
fronds, and palm leaves. The working party had brought 
in the branches and shrubs; a Chinese woman brought the 
flowers to the jail gates— making a dozen trips— and two 
smiling Japanese guards had brought the palm leaves! 
Orchids and gardenias banked the altar. It looked as solid 
as one of marble, although beneath the flowers and the 
freshly laundered white altar cloths were only planks. Six 
candles flickered in tall, conical, painted candlesticks of 
cardboard which disguised beer bottles underneath. Behind 
and above the altar were murals painted by Father Bakker 
on cardboard screens of the folding type used by Chinese. 
The murals depicted Bethlehem’s barren hills the night 
the shepherds and their flocks received angelic tidings of 
the Nativity. Where he had obtained the cardboard to 
make the murals and the paints to paint them was Father 
Bakker’s secret. 

Father Elling, the jail’s most eloquent speaker in either 
Dutch or English— he had learned English that well since 
the previous April— preached the sermon. It was the second 
time he had given the same sermon and it was as appropri- 
ate to this occasion as when he first preached it, Christmas 


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Day, 1936, in Utrecht, Holland, when his parents, brothers 
and sisters and all their family friends gathered in the 
church to hear his first sermon as a priest. 

Protestants as well as Catholics packed the cell and the 
area immediately outside it. After a special Christmas morn- 
ing breakfast Colijn conducted Dutch Protestant services 
and Reverend Wardle preached a sermon and led prayers 
for men of the Church of England. Reverend Wardle for 
years had been in charge of a seamen's mission in Singa- 
pore and this morning he drew on that background to ad- 
dress his fellow castaways of the sea. 

Christmas was a holiday from work. The Japanese had 
allowed husbands and wives to exchange gifts, via a special 
courier, on condition there was no writing except the re- 
cipient’s name on or in the packages. So we had Christmas 
presents, although not of the sort usually associated with 
Christmas. They were whatever knicknacks the givers 
could fashion with needle and thread, or pocket knife, or 
cook from their scarce possessions. And somehow the ever- 
thoughtful women had managed to get the ingredients for 
toffee and paper to wrap the pieces in, and thus ensured 
every man a present of candy whether or not he had rela- 
tives in the Women’s Camp. 

An Australian jockey named Donnelly, the smallest man 
in jail, dressed up as Santa Claus and, accompanied by the 
five biggest prisoners as bearers, distributed the presents. I 
was flabbergasted when he marched into the clinic with a 
present from the Colijn girls, a notebook cover made of 
cloth and monogrammed. 

Dinner that day marked the high point of food abun- 
dance in our captivity. We had a fat Christmas in 1942. Per- 
haps that is why I remember the first Yuletide so vividly. 
It was such a contrast to subsequent ones. Also, we still 
were balanced enough to appreciate life and each other and 
the spirit of the day. Starvation, disease, confinement, death 
and the bickerings of men had not vet distorted our per- 


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spectives. We could laugh and sing and perform such non- 
sense as serenading the small army of corveyers preparing 
dinner. The orchestra parked itself outside the kitchen. 
Clapping hands and stomping feet set a beat to which the 
workers chopped meat and vegetables and peeled potatoes, 
washed pots and pans and cut firewood. Chief Cook Beissel 
had been hoarding for this occasion. Also, he had used his 
diplomatic powers on the guards to get the necessary condi- 
ments for a true nasi goreng which literally means fried rice 
but actually connotes much more . . . just as the two 
words turkey dinner imply more than turkey to an Ameri- 
can. Beissel’s only rival for food output that day was a 
Britisher named Knobby Clark who, from rice flour he 
ground himself and hard candies he made from palm 
sugar, steamed fifty “plum puddings” on a stove consisting 
of two kerosene tins set on a few loose bricks. 

That night, beneath a black velvet, cloud-flecked sky, 
sprinkled here and there with stardust. Father Bakker’s 
choir first sang the story of the Nativity. The kitchen porch 
had been transformed into a stage by judicious use of the 
church decorations: palm leaves, sarongs and the murals. 
Standing in a splash of light were the singers while beyond 
them in the yard’s darkness men sat, squatted or stood, 
illuminated only by the glow of their cigarets. Tobacco and 
nipa leaves had been issued in the morning. 

Beissel and Allen read the gospel story. When their 
voices ceased. Father Bakker raised his baton, swept it 
downward and the sacred cantata began. 

One of the most difficult of all things to secure in Palem- 
bang Jail was silence for events such as lectures or shows. 
Always there were some disinterested individuals who 
spoiled things for others by talking, laughing or splashing. 
The greatest tribute to Father Bakker’s genius was the 
silence he and his choir secured. After the singing started 
not even a cigaret was lighted as the music and the memo- 
ries it evoked held men completely hushed until the last 


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notes throbbed and a full moon rose silvery and splendid 
to flood the jail yard and walls with light. 

I have seldom seen an audience anywhere so moved by 
song as were my fellow internees that night in Palembang 
Jail. Most of them, I think, thanked God they were alive 
and asked Him to let their families also know. 

In the Christmas issue of Camp News was a poem writ- 
ten by Allen, which I thought contained a message common 
to the hearts of most prisoners. Entitled, “To My Wife at 
Christmas," it said: 

“It needs no festal time to bring you to my mind. 

For every sunrise, every close of day, I find 

Your image by me, smiling, bidding me good cheer. 

Whispering our private nonsenses I love to hear. 

Yet to be parted at this season, for this cause, 

Seems doubly hard to bear; though if men break 
the laws 

Of Him on high, they only have themselves to 
blame 

For suffering; the Eternal Rules are still the same. 

Last year I hung a stocking, child-like, by your bed 

While you were sleeping; but this year my 
thoughts instead 

And prayers and wishes to the stars and round 
moon spoken. 

Are all the gifts that I can send to you for token 

Of all the joy there is between us, come what may. 

Have faith, my love, although the night is dark, 
the day 

Will break, and peace and good will come to 
men at last. 

God bless and keep you always." 

My own thoughts were summarized in one of the few 
editorials I ever put into Camp News. The editorial con- 
cluded by saying: 


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'‘Past Christmases were happier, we admit. But this 
Christmas need not be sad or gloomy. How lucky we are 
to be here, and not at the bottom of the Bangka Straits 
[where many were sunk] or in the Indian Ocean, or pris- 
oners in certain other concentration camps. For there are 
worse. We have reasons to smile today. We are in good 
health; we are not starved; we are not cold. We are not 
being bombed or shelled or machine-gunned. Truly this is 
a wonderful Christmas because we are not among the 
maimed or dead. We are alive!" 

Seldom have I appreciated Christmas more than that day 
as a war prisoner in a jail beside Sumatra’s Moesi river, two 
degrees south of the equator. Different as was that Christ- 
mas to all of us, there was about it something which 
brought us closer to the real significance of the day than 
many of us had ever been. We had Christmas in our hearts, 
instead of on an electrically lighted tree or in gaudily 
wrapped packages from a department store. 

On the day after Christmas we reciprocated the women’s 
serenade. Father Bakker led his choir out as members of 
the working party. When within earshot of the Women’s 
Camp the choir began to sing, first a verse in Dutch then 
a verse in English, “Come All Ye Faithful." The women 
were waiting, standing silently in the open space between 
their houses and the fence. 

The choir walked as slowly as the men could move. The 
guards did not hurry them, but also did not let them 
halt. 

“Come All Ye Faithful" was followed by “Silent Night, 
Holy Night." The Women’s Camp was no longer within 
sight when the song ended but the choir swung into an 
other melody, for singers knew the women could hear them 
still and would be listening even after the last note died. 

We ushered in 1943 with a New Year’s Eve show at 
which I was master of ceremonies. High spot of the show 


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was intermission because a punch was served which was 
spiked by liquor two men had spent weeks distilling. Coils 
for their still were made from an electric wire conduit stolen 
from an abandoned house adjacent to the new camp site. 
The rest of the still was made of tins, bottles, and a metal 
firebox. Fermented rice supplied the mash. The final 
product was a foul tasting stuff but its viciousness was dis- 
guised by the punch it powered. 

Clad only in a pair of shorts ?! id squatting on the kitchen 
stoop sipping punch during iiuermission, 1 thought of the 
previous New Year's Eve, when Martin, Lee and I, wearing 
all the clothes we could find, shivered in a mud farm 
house and drank in 1942 with throat-searing Chinese wine 
while we waited to begin the most hazardous leg of our 
escape from Shanghai. 

After the show, when everybody had shaken hands and 
wished each other Happy New Year, and gone to bed, I 
sat outside the clinic and, as men are wont when they have 
little else to do at such a time, reviewed the year and 
attempted a balancing of books. There were fewer items 
on the credit than on the debit side of the ledger but the 
black entries outweighed the red because my sense of values 
had changed considerably. 

What I call my own private miracle had done that. After 
the ship on which I was escaping from Java was sunk in 
the Indian Ocean, I had swum up to the only lifeboat in 
sight. Its occupants turned me down. 

‘'No more room," they said, and rowed away, leaving me 
to drown. 

That was shortly before noon of March 7, 1942, approxi- 
mately 250 miles southwest of Java. Death was a certainty. 
It was only a matter of time. Buoyed by my life belt, I 
spent the afternoon swimming and praying and thinking 
and weighing the values of life — balancing my own books. 

Toward sundown a lifeboat mast appeared on the horizon. 
I swam toward it, but the sail was hoisted and the boat 


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moved away. Another lifeboat came into view. It too was 
hoisting sail to go off without me. 

“God/’ I prayed, “make that sail go down.” 

The sail collapsed. 

The sail was hoisted a second time. Again I prayed. 
Again the sail collapsed. Twice! 

I reached the boat and was pulled in. Crew members 
refused to go after another man who had been swimming 
behind me. Too many were in the boat now, they said. I 
was picked up only because I reached it under my own 
power. Had the sail’s collapsing not delayed the lifeboat 
so I could reach it, I, too, would have been left behind. 
That is why I call the episode my own private miracle. 

As I sat outside the clinic of Palembang Jail in the last 
minutes of 1942 and looked back, it was plain that the year 
just ending had been my greatest spiritual adventure. Its 
lessons had shaped a conviction that success is not measured 
by how high a man has climbed or whether the whole 
world knows his by-line; but by whether he has loved God 
and his neighbor, not with words only but with deeds. 
While swimming in the Indian Ocean and living in prison 
I had found what for me was the most important thing in 
life; and somewhere out of all the travail involved had 
come peace of mind. 

My heart could sing and did as the guardroom clock 
struck two o’clock Tokyo time and it was midnight * and a 
New Year in Sumatra. 

• The Japanese operated on Tokyo time throughout their areas of occu- 
pation no matter in what time zone. We internees kept our watches set 
on Palembang time, two hours behind Tokyo. 


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9 

Barracks Camp^Harbinger of 
Evil Days 


W E stripped the jail like a swarm of Mormon 
crickets moving through a grain field when 
we left it and moved to the new Barracks 
Camp January i6, 1943. The Japanese supplied trucks for 
our luggage, the first time they had given us anything but 
rations since our imprisonment, so we carried everything 
detachable. Even bricks from the bath tank floor were hid- 
den in the debris we called our baggage— sacks, bottles, tin 
cans rusty and otherwise, pieces of metal and every stick 
of firewood stacked outside the kitchen. We left nothing 
but the walls. 

The new camp covered a rectangular area 330 feet long 
and half as wide. Long windowless barracks of plank and 
bamboo with earthen floors and palm-thatched roofs lined 
the four sides. The short spaces between buildings were 
filled with solid wooden fence. A barbed wire fence sur- 
rounded the whole area and high sentry boxes in each of 
the four corners commanded views of the outer barricade 
and the inner yard. We had twice the space for walking and 
half again as much for sleeping as in Palembang Jail, and 
were anticipating the comfort of more living room, but we 
did not get it. More prisoners came. They arrived in a con- 
voy of trucks: 126 men, two cats, four dogs, fifty-three ducks 
and one hundred chickens. And the men were well fleshed. 

109 


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Not until we saw the newcomers did we realize how lean 
we had become. 

They were the Dutch oil technicians of Standard and 
Shell who had been forcefully imported from Java to repair 
the damaged refineries near Palembang. They had success- 
fully done so little that the Japanese sent them back to 
internment. However, they had been well treated, well fed 
and even paid for their time. With them they brought 
enough equipment to set up their own camp, complete with 
kitchen and first-aid facilities. 

Not until they walked in on us did they know they were 
not to occupy a place by themselves. The surprise was 
mutual. When we had all unpacked, and individual living 
spaces been allocated, we found each man had a space six 
feet six inches long and twenty-seven inches wide for him- 
self and belongings on the long bamboo sleeping benches 
that lined the barracks. Quarrels over who was infringing 
on whose space were frequent and bitter. Some men pro- 
tected their rights by erecting tiny fences of sticks and wire 
on either side of their twenty-seven inch spaces. Others 
were more ingenious. They clubbed together into joint 
partnerships, known as kongsies, and enlarged their living 
Space by various means. Those who had the necessary mate- 
rials built bunks in tiers. This method allowed three men 
to sleep stacked one above the other, thus using only one 
bed space in the horizontal plane. The two free spaces 
served for storage and a place to sit. A few rugged individu- 
alists, using saws, cut their bed spaces from the bench and 
then elevated them like platforms, a few inches above the 
bench level. As bug life increased, those who could built 
lean-tos against the fence outside and slept there. 

Food supplies diminished steadily from our first day in 
the new camp. As our diet deteriorated, skin sores and eye 
troubles increased. Men became night blind and by day saw 
double or were plagued by dancing spots. The queues of 
patients waiting for skin treatment grew so long that we 


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called men up by blocks in the same way as for serving food. 
Hot baths were by appointment and only major cases got 
them because the water supply was so poor we often had 
no water at all. 

Fortunately, we were able to increase our hospital space 
in the new camp. In fact, the Japanese allotted one entire 
barracks to the hospital and instead of bamboo sleeping 
benches, gave us individual wooden beds and laid a con- 
crete floor to put them on. 

As hunger preoccupied us we became calorie conscious, 
mentally translating every morsel of food into its com- 
ponents of vitamins, proteins, calories and other nutritive 
elements. The power packed by a few vitamins and fats was 
strikingly demonstrated when Doc West, after months of 
pleading, received a quantity of palm oil from the Japa- 
nese. Sumatra abounds in palm oil but for some reason our 
captors were reluctant to give it to us. Doc issued the oil, 
rich in Vitamin A, as medicine to men suffering night 
blindness. Their vision improved remarkably. More oil 
arrived and it was given to men with certain types of skin 
disease. Their sores healed. 

Palm oil rations increased until, for a few months, it was 
possible to issue every man in camp five cubic centimeters 
—about one teaspoon— on his noonday rice. The effect was 
remarkable. Itching and burning skins were relieved. We 
slept better at night. Our dispositions improved and there 
was generally more harmony among us. And all because of 
a teaspoon of palm oil. That sounds small and is, but it was 
big to us who by late 1943 were counting things in grams 
and teaspoons instead of pounds or quarts. Peanuts, for 
example, were issued when available not by weight but by 
number. And salt, vital to our lives, was issued in ten gram 
(approximately 1/3 oz.) lots. 

We moved to Barracks Camp during the wet monsoon. 
Rain fell steadily through January, February and March. 
Tons of rain, rivers of rain. The camp had excellent drain- 


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age— from one end to the other— where water piled up and 
earthen floors became ponds through which men waded to 
their sleeping benches. The yard was a quagmire of red, 
mucilaginous mud that gripped our wooden sandals, tore 
them from our feet and spilled us headlong into its gluey 
embrace. Falls were most frequent as we carefully picked 
our way back from the food lines, carrying a plate of rice— 
a heartbreaking mishap in prison camp. 

Septic tanks, already inadequate for our numbers, over- 
flowed, their effluvia accentuating our discomforts and in- 
creasing disease hazards. Clothing, bedding and mosquito 
nets, wet from roof leaks, or clammy damp from moisture 
laden air, could not be dried because there was no sun. 

Through April the rains diminished and the sun peeked 
out. Through May the sun shone all the time. It burned 
through June, July and August, drying up the land and the 
wells we dug when water from the city system failed. We 
dug the wells deeper, scraped muddy water off their bottoms 
and passed buckets hand to hand, chain fashion, to fill our 
tanks. There was no water for washing clothes and so little 
for our bodies that in time we stank nearly as badly as the 
septic tanks. Vermin thrived in the noisome barracks, 
swarming hungrily over us at night, biting with sharp, 
needle-like nips, adding their tortures to the burning skin 
itches which returned when the palm oil supply ended. The 
itch was especially fierce at night. A man’s skin crawled so 
much that, to keep his sanity, he deserted his bed and 
walked up and down the yard. 

Hunger and drouth raised special problems for chicken 
and duck owners. Should they keep the fowls and sell eggs, 
or kill them and sell meat? Eggs would be more profitable 
in the long run but the hazards against chickens living were 
numerous. A hen mistakenly wandered into the Australian 
section one evening and was quickly and silently strangled, 
plucked and popped into a cooking pot. Dogs, cats and 


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rats also were their enemies. Fowls could not be kept in box 
coops all day and when released they might lay eggs off the 
family premises. Before liberating a hen to scratch in the 
yard the owner probed her with his fingers to determine 
whether an egg was in prospect. 

One owner safeguarded his ducks by tying them to a 
small tree. Heat waves were raising dust in the yard and the 
panting ducks attracted the sympathy of a Japanese guard. 
He left his post, approached the ducks, studied their hobbles 
and went away. Presently he returned with a canteen of 
water, a cup, and a handful of rice. The ducks drank from 
the cup and ate from his hand. 

Tempers shortened as conditions worsened. Internees 
became increasingly critical of their leaders. A movement 
started to unseat both Dutch and British members of the 
Camp Committee. The ‘‘oil block,” which had been 
strengthened by the 126 newcomers, exerted its power. Al- 
though the oil men were themselves divided into Shell and 
Standard rivalries they had a mutual interest in being more 
strongly represented in camp government. The basic con- 
flict over an “active” versus a “passive” policy toward the 
Japanese furnished fuel for controversy. But what finally 
brought matters to a boil had nothing to do with policy. 
Dogs caused the revolt which unseated Camp Leader Van 
der Vliet, British Leader Penryce and other committeemen. 

The new oil men had brought four dogs with them. 
Three other dogs somehow found their way into camp and 
were adopted by non-oil men. Van der Vliet announced in 
July that he had been ordered by Palembang City officials 
to get rid of the dogs because Palembang was full of rabies. 
Dog owners accused Van der Vliet of lying. They said he 
himself wanted the dogs removed from camp and started 
the rabies story as an excuse. Van der Vliet hotly denied 
the accusations and said he was acting only under orders 
from the Japanese. Proof that Van der Vliet was telling 


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the truth materialized July 14th in the form of the Palem- 
bang Indonesian dog catcher, complete with truck and 
assistants armed with clubs. Not a dog was in sight. 

“Bring dogs in five minutes or we will go in and get 
them ourselves," the guard commander told unhappy Van 
der Vliet. 

Five minutes passed, then ten, then fifteen, while Van 
der Vliet went through camp pleading with dog owners. 
Still they refused. 

“Search barracks," the guard commander ordered. 

Joyfully dog catcher and guards started through the bar- 
racks swinging clubs. Dog owners capitulated, produced 
their pets from under benches and saw them loaded into the 
truck and taken away. Then they turned on Van der Vliet 
with renewed fury, claiming that if he had resisted the 
initial demands the matter would have been dropped. 

Van der Vliet resigned as Camp Leader. The Committee, 
which had supported him, called for a vote of confidence. 
The next day dog owners were summoned to the front 
gate and told by an Indonesian guard they could have their 
dogs back on payment of a dog license fee plus a “present." 
The owners paid; the dogs were returned. But the vote of 
confidence was held anyway and Van der Vliet and the 
Committee lost by five ballots. 

An election was set for July 21st and campaigning began. 
I entered the political arena to root for Direct Action 
Drysdale, who decided to be a candidate when it was nearly 
too late to file because nearly all British signatures already 
had been secured for the petitions of other candidates. Six- 
teen signatures were required for each petition and I had 
obtained only fifteen shortly before filing time. Desperately 
I appealed to the sportsmanship of Wembley-Smythe. 

“I don’t like him," said Wembley-Smythe, taking a deep 
breath, “and I won’t vote for him and I hope he’s not 
elected because he is too headstrong and brashly unorthodox 


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in his methods, but I’ll concede he should be given a sport- 
ing chance to run for election. I’ll sign his petition.” 

Many of his fellow countrymen were genuinely afraid 
that if Drysdale should become British leader he would so 
antagonize the Japanese that dire consequences would fol- 
low. Their fears dated from the time Drysdale dared a 
Japanese guard to shoot him and the guard backed down. 

For a month after their capture in February, 1942, the 
Britishers had been forced to load ships in ihe Moesi river. 
The labor was strenuous and t’.cy were ot allowed to rest. 
Drysdale finally rebelled. He sat down on the dock and 
announced he was going to rest for ten minutes. A guard 
pointed his rifle at Drysdale, ordered him to get up and 
resume working. Drysdale refused. 

“I’ll shoot,” said the guard, in Malay. 

“Go ahead,” Drysdale replied, and remained seated. 
Other guards approached. Drysdale again was ordered to 
stand up and resume work or be shot. He again refused, 
and repeated his defiant, 

“Shoot. I’ll work when I’m rested.” 

Instead of shooting they reported to the officer in charge, 
who investigated and listened to Drysdale’s demands that 
he and the other men were entitled to rest periods. He 
agreed. Thenceforth they were allowed rest periods. How- 
ever, despite what Drysdale won for his companions, they 
were so frightened by his method — because the Japanese 
MIGHT have shot Drysdale and them, too— that they al- 
ways mistrusted him. 

My electioneering for Drysdale was in vain. He ran a 
poor third in the balloting. Colonial Officer Hammet was 
elected British Leader to replace Penryce. Standard Oil 
Engineer H. Van Asbeck, who was a baron of the Dutch 
nobility, was elected to replace Van der Vliet as liaison man 
between prisoners and the Japanese. That meant that in 
the eyes of the Japanese Van Asbeck was Camp Leader. 


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1 16 

However, he actually was not because of a new S5^tem we 
inaugurated in our internal affairs whereby Resident Oranje 
reluctantly became Chairman of the Camp Committee and, 
as such, the real head of the camp. 

The maneuvering necessary to get Oranje to take respon- 
sibilities many thought he should have taken from the very 
beginning, coupled with the entire episode of the dogs and 
the election, was a demonstration, in my opinion, of the 
scarcity and crying need of real leaders. Leaders were as 
necessary in prison camp as they are in the world at large. 
Our community of prisoners in Palembang was a cross sec- 
tion of society in general. Among us were all kinds of men, 
from ne’er-do-wells to tycoons of business, industry and 
government. And not one of them was a real leader. There 
were men of character and integrity, but in none burned 
that vital flame which inspires men to follow. None seemed 
able to really break down the barriers of nationality, blood 
or position that divided us. Instead of being brought closer 
together by our common troubles we seemed to grow in- 
creasingly suspicious of each other— suspicious that the other 
fellow somehow would get more than his share. And, as in 
ordinary life, the loudest complainers often did least to help 
either themselves or the community. However, I noticed 
one essential difference between Dutch and English mal- 
contents. No matter how loudly the Hollander complained 
he usually worked hard at the job assigned him; while the 
British belly-acher was as lazy as he was obnoxious. 

Oranje’s aversion to being target for shafts from dissatis- 
fied internees was one reason for his reluctance to accept 
leadership. He told me, when I asked why he did not step 
into the breach when Van der Vliet resigned, 

“No matter who the camp leader is, he will be handi- 
capped by his inability, in a showdown, to enforce his will 
because we have no laws and no agency to enforce them 
even if we did. 

“It seems to be the nature of men in here to rebel against 


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“7 

authority unless that authority is their boss in civil life and 
controls their paychecks. I do not wish to make enemies in 
this camp who will remain so after the war." 

There was also, I suspected, the matter of his dignity, 
both in relation to the Japanese and to us internees. 

As Resident of Palembang, Oranje was our highest rank- 
ing official. That automatically made him the natural leader 
of the camp but he had declined from the beginning to 
assume office on grounds it would bring him into a relation- 
ship with Japanese authorities that would compel him to 
recognize them as the government of Sumatra. He refused 
to pay such recognition. 

His objection was by-passed just before the election by a 
plan which provided for Oranje to be Chairman of the 
Camp Committee because of his position as Resident and 
without election. That would save him the '‘indignity" of 
standing election. The elected liaison man, whom Oranje 
would rank, would be Camp Leader in Japanese eyes but 
not in reality. Thus Oranje became a kind of power behind 
the throne while the ostensible leader was Van Asbeck. 

"Politically, our lives in here are just as complicated as 
in ordinary life," I commented to Chief Cook Beissel after 
the election. "And just as in ordinary political life the most 
trifling thing sometimes will change history. Look what a 
few dogs started." 

That reminded Beissel of a dog story. 

"Did you ever hear of the American Pied Piper of Bali?" 
he asked. 

I had not. Beissel told me. 

Everybody knows about Bali but only those who have 
been there know about its pariah dogs. They are to Bali 
what the snakes were to Ireland and the rats to Hamelin 
town. An American woman tourist with a love for Bali, a 
large purse and a crusader’s zeal, decided to do something 
about it. Beissel was one of the Dutch civil servants there 
at the time who cooperated fully, glad of a chance to reduce 


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118 BY EASTERN WINDOWS 

the island’s canine population at no cost to the govern- 
ment. 

The woman sent for an American dog exterminating 
specialist. He arrived equipped with catching devices and 
gas chambers. But he had not envisaged the size of his 
task. After long investigation, including a census that 
stopped after ten thousand dogs had been counted, the 
expert said the dogs would breed faster than he could 
round them up for gas chambering. Most of them would 
have to be exterminated by other means. 

The government supplied him with rifles, ammunition 
and assistants. He organized what was probably a record 
pariah dog hunt. Beissel accompanied him on a half-day 
expedition wherein eleven hundred dogs were killed. He 
hunted and killed for eight months and finally quit in 
despair without any appreciable diminution of the canine 
population. 

“What happened to the American lady?” I asked. 

“I don’t know,” said Beissel. 

Sea Lion Smallwood, who had waddled up to join the 
conversation, ventured an opinion, 

“Maybe she joined one of your American birth control 
leagues to get a few pointers,” he said, and laughed until 
he was purple-faced and breathless. 

“Time to ring the tea bell,” said Beissel, and started for 
the kitchen. I walked part way with him and asked; 

“Are there any cooks among the new oil men?” 

“I think there are several good ones,” he said. “Why?” 

“Oh, I was just wondering. Got nothing better to wonder 
about.” 

Actually, I was wondering how long it would be before 
someone would start a movement to get Beissel out of the 
kitchen. He was a prodigious worker and an excellent cook 
but that would mean little if rations got leaner and dis- 
satisfied men started looking for someone to be the goat, 
since they couldn’t vent their anger on the real culprits, the 


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Japanese. Psychologically, that factor of being helpless to 
combat the real cause of our hunger probably played a 
large but unrealized part in our internal bickerings. We 
couldn’t get at the Japanese so we substituted whipping 
boys who were the current powers in camp life. Petty hates, 
as well as malnutrition, floods and drouth, were our com- 
panions in Barracks Camp and harbingers of evil days 
ahead. 


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Verities: Mundane and Eternal 


D entist harley-clark, who with Dr. 

Hollweg had been taken away from Palem- 
bang Jail to work in a hospital for natives, was 
returned to us in Barracks Camp. He said the Kempeitai 
appeared at the hospital, brought him back to internment 
but arrested Dr. Hollweg and took him to their own private 
jail. Harley-Clark moved into the eight-foot-square hospital 
staff room occupied by Allen, myself, a New Zealander 
named Wilson and numerous rats who lay low by day and 
frolicked around at night. The dentist brought with him 
two small sacks of green beans which had to be protected 
against the rats. We decided the safest place would be 
hanging in midair, suspended on a wire from the ceiling. 

Careful calculations showed that if the beans were hung 
in the exact center of the room they would be four feet from 
any wall, too far for a rat to jump. We retired that night 
feeling sure the beans were safe. But next morning holes 
had been gnawed in the sacks. Rats had proved they not 
only could reach the wire but shinny up and down it. 
Harley-Clark fashioned a conical tin guard around the wire 
and we retired the second night, certain they could not get 
around that rat guard. They did. 

We greased the wire before going to bed the third night. 
Strange noises awakened us. I switched on the electric light 
we were allowed to burn in the clinic. There was a rat 
crouched on the tin guard. Frightened by the light he had 

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paused for a moment in his frantic efforts to go back up the 
wire. Then he resumed them, but the grease was too thick 
and slippery. He would start up and slide back, start up and 
slide back. He tried again and again until finally, either 
baffled or exhausted, he stopped, clung to the rat guard 
and watched us. Perhaps it was my imagination, but I 
fancied his sharp features were wrinkled with bewilder- 
ment. Now was the time for us to act. 

‘'He’s yours,” said Harley-Clark, “I can’t reach him.” 

I grasped a club we had made for this specific moment 
and stood up to swat the rat. He must have read my mind. 
In one enormous leap he sprang from the tin, cleared the 
four feet of space to the wall and scuttled out the window. 
Harley-Clark took his beans to bed with him after that. 

We had long hoped that Mehitabel, the cat who moved 
into the clinic bedroom with us, would prove the answer to 
rats but our hopes were killed and my faith in cats forever 
dashed by Mehitabel’s base treachery. Mehitabel was lured 
into our room by blandishments of food and luxurious shel- 
ter. She had just given birth to two kittens in another part 
of camp and wandered into our room obviously house hunt- 
ing. Under his bed, Allen had an empty, fiberboard suitcase 
with a hole in it. We put Mehitabel in the suitcase and 
turned it so she could come out the hole. Delighted she 
emerged from the hole, mewed her thanks and scampered 
out the door. Ten minutes later she returned carrying a 
kitten. A second trip brought the second kitten. Our next 
problem was to keep Mehitabel from moving elsewhere 
when the kittens were older. 

We reasoned that if she were treated royally she would 
not want to leave and so we squandered precious food on 
her. Our most treasured possession was a bottle of rendered 
pork fat which had cost us much negotiating and twenty 
guilders. Fat was the closest thing to meat we had tasted 
since early days in Palembang Jail. Every other day mem- 


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BY EASTERN WINDOWS 


bers of our kongsie got one teaspoonful each of melted fat 
on their rice. Mehitabel was included. She loved it. Occa- 
sionally our rations included dried fish and we divided 
those with her. I had acquired some powdered milk I was 
saving for lean times. Mehitabel got that too. 

We cherished her by day and at night watched her kittens 
so she could feel free to roam as she wished without fear of 
harm to her offspring. At first she would not leave them 
for more than a few minutes at a time. To ease her mind 
Wilson and I became kitten sitters. When Mehitabel 
mewed desire to roam one or the other of us would take the 
kittens into our mosquito nets. Satisfied, she would leave 
and be gone for hours. The arrangement pleased Mehitabel 
so much she took to waking us up three or four times a 
night: first to give us the kittens, then to get them back; 
then to give them to us and so on. Exasperating, but we 
endured it cheerfully. We wanted Mehitabel to be happy. 

She consumed our pork fat and my powdered milk. The 
kittens grew large enough to roam around themselves at 
night. They expressed dissatisfaction with the suitcase so 
we made them a new bed. They became very temperamental 
but we put up with all their whims because we knew the 
kittens soon would be large enough to catch rats. In fact 
rats had completely avoided our bedroom since Mehitabel’s 
arrival. 

But when the pork fat bottle and the milk powder tin 
were empty Mehitabel deserted us. She took the kittens to 
another part of camp where she got nothing but indiffer- 
ence and had to forage for herself. Why? Fll never know. 
But ril never trust a cat again, especially a lady cat. 

Among necessaries of life difficult to obtain in prison 
camp were false teeth. If a man lost his real teeth he was 
in a bad way. 

Dentist Harley-Clark one day told a nearly toothless 


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customer, “If somebody will donate a spare plate, I can 
help you/' 

But no one had teeth to spare until Whitey died. He went 
suddenly and unexpectedly during the night. We carried 
him from the ward into the clinic and laid him on a bench 
to wait until the guards produced a coffin. They had a rule 
bodies had to be in coffins when they were taken out for 
burial. I was looping a rag around Whitey's head to hold 
his jaw shut when I remembered Harley-Clark's promise. 

“How about it. Doc?" I asked West. 

“Good idea," he said, “maybe Harley can use them." 

So I removed Whitey's plates. Harley-Clark went to work 
on them and in a few days another man was eating with 
Whitey's false teeth. But he never knew whence they 
came. 

The camp orchestra tripled in size with arrival of the new 
oil men. They brought enough wire with them to supply 
strings for a half dozen guitars and two bull fiddles. Finding 
only two guitars in camp and no bull fiddles they made the 
instruments themselves. Such an orchestra could not be 
wasted on small scale productions so we staged larger ones 
every month on the night the moon was full. Master of 
ceremonies for several productions was an English planter 
named D. F. Pratt, the nephew of an English actor, William 
Henry Pratt, whose Hollywood name is Boris Karloff. 
Pratt's jokes were translated into Dutch by Controleur De 
Jong, who also possessed the best baritone in jail and sang 
Malay love songs and lullabies. If I were a girl in love and 
my boy friend could sing, there are few melodies that would 
please me more than those the Malays sing when the moon 
is full. My favorite was Terang Boelan, which means Clear 
Moon. 

When Pratt ran out of jokes his place as master of cere- 
monies was taken by a young radio announcer from Singa- 


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pore named Andrew Carruthers, who organized a production 
team comprising Poker Shark Attenborough, an Australian 
consular service man named John Quinn and a rotund 
jokester named Magnay. They staged most of our shows 
until illness halted them. A revue written entirely by Librar- 
ian Lawson climaxed our monthly concerts. Lawson com- 
posed a tuneful theme song named “Singapore Way" and 
built around it a show for which we rehearsed nightly for 
a month. Eric Germann and I played the parts of husband 
and wife. By wearing backwards, with appropriate stitching, 
a man’s black satin dressing gown, inserting the halves of 
two coconut shells into a home-made brassiere, donning a 
tight fitting turban bonnet and lavishing Chinese cosmetics 
in the right places, I made a passable looking wife. Except 
for Eric’s beard, which he declined to remove, we might 
have been the gum chewing American tourists we were sup- 
posed to represent. Lawson’s show was our last concert of 
magnitude, because hunger was beginning to take its toll. 
More and more men were cracking and becoming physically 
unable or psychologically unwilling to participate in 
theatricals. 

When our diminishing food supplies were augmented 
with soya beans we whooped for joy, only to discover in a 
few days that they went through us like beebee shot. Many 
internees could not digest the beans no matter how long 
they were cooked. Individual men solved the bean problem 
by grinding them into coarse flour which was roasted, then 
sprinkled on rice. An Australian named Marning made a 
mortar and pestle from a tree stump. He drilled a hole 
perpendicularly through the stump, burned out a hollow 
depression, carved it smooth and had a mortar. The pestle 
he made from a stone fitted onto a long, heavy wooden 
handle. He rented the mortar and pestle for a percentage 
of flour ground. 

Germann and Canadian Christie also went into the mill- 
ing business, using a coffee grinder. They charged thirty-five 


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cents a kilogram (seventeen cents a pound) for their labor 
and figured two hours of grinding per kilogram. 

In Barracks Camp our horizon, instead of being a jagged 
profile of stone wall and tiled roofs as in Palembang Jail, 
was a far-flung line where green trees met blue sky. Eve- 
nings, therefore, we could marvel at the fantastic grandeur 
of tropic sunsets and, as dusk deepened, watch lines of fly- 
ing foxes winging from their jungle lairs in search of food. 
The flying fox is a species of large frugivorous bat with a 
fox-like head. As the weird creatures beat slowly along not 
far above the tree tops, with their four and five foot wing- 
spreads, they looked enormous. They reminded me of vam- 
pire bats of fiction, so sinister did they appear as their dark 
wings flapped silently overhead. 

Immediately after sunset a solitary flying fox, as if recon- 
noitering, would wing slowly over camp from east to west 
and disappear. Soon came the advance guard of from three 
to ten, directly on the trail of the leader and flying wide 
apart. Behind them came groups in close formation and then 
the main body. Hundreds of fox-bats, flying so low it seemed 
we should have heard the beat of their wings, but there 
was no sound. They might have been shadows, they were 
so quiet. Stragglers brought up the rear and when even the 
last stragglers should have passed, along would come a 
single bat, like the solitary leader. We never saw them fly- 
ing eastward for they returned during the night. Occasion- 
ally I thought I saw single flying foxes silhouetted against 
the moon. But I was never sure. They might have been ordi- 
nary, smaller bats which frequented our camp and ulti- 
mately furnished an article of diet for starving men. 

While trying to determine one night whether the silhou- 
ettes were flying foxes winging high or ordinary bats flying 
low I saw my first moonlight thunderstorm. 

The moon had risen full, peering over the edge of the 
world like an enormous bloodshot eye dwarfing everything 


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BY EASTERN WINDOWS 


of earth. As it floated free of the horizon, it bled white and 
shrank until it was just the moon, inanimate in space and 
reflecting its cold, second-hand light that glimmered dully 
on nipa palm leaves which thatched our roofs. The shadows 
of men walking in the yard gradually shortened as the moon 
rose higher. 

In the north thunder muttered, like distant guns, and in 
that direction the stars were blotted out. Slowly the curtain 
which obscured them grew and blackened and moved like a 
flood across the sky. Thunder sounded with a crunching 
and grinding akin to rocks moving unseen but terribly alive 
within the waters of a flash flood down a western arroyo. 
And, as in such a flood, the earth trembled from their force. 

But an invisible, supernal dyke halted the flood before it 
could invade the southern sky and drown the moon. In- 
stead, it piled up higher and higher in the heavens until it 
seemed higher than the moon. Convulsively, with blinding 
lightning bolts and ear-shattering thunder claps, the giant 
sought to burst its bonds but the dyke held— a celestial 
equator splitting the sky into northern and southern hemi- 
spheres of storm and calm so that the moon could ride 
down the middle serene and unafraid. 

“Awesome spectacle, isn’t it?” crackled a husky, penetrat- 
ing voice, and Wembley-Smythe ambled across the moon- 
bathed yard. “Too beautiful a night to waste sleeping. Let’s 
take a few turns around the quadrangle.” 

We fell in step. 

“Nights like this almost make me believe in a personal 
God and a hereafter,” said Wembley-Smythe. 

I asked him in what kind of God he did believe. 

“Oh, a vast, impersonal Intelligence that started things 
spinning and hasn’t bothered much with them since.” 

That started us debating again about the origin of things 
and he reminded me of our unfinished discussion in Palem- 
bang Jail. 

“Do you really doubt the existence of God?” I asked. 


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“Or are you only throwing it out as a bait for argu- 
ment?'' 

He laughed and said, “I suppose I do believe in God. It 
is illogical to say things simply started by themselves. There 
had to be a first cause and we call it God. However, I'm 
very doubtful there is a hereafter of any kind, a heaven or 
hell or anything else, beyond the grave. When the end 
comes, well, I think it simply will be the end. That is why 
I am neutral on the so-called eternal verities, but obviously 
you are not. Why take your beliefs so seriously?" 

“Because we can't be neutral about religious truth any 
more than we can be neutral about mathematical truth," I 
said. “One is as true as the other. But we quibble about 
religious truth because it entails obligations on the believer. 
If believing seven times eight equals fifty-six also meant 
that we had to keep the Ten Gommandments and go to 
church on Sunday, there would be a hell of a lot of debate 
over whether or not seven times eight really did equal fifty- 
six or some other sum; and men would split up into mathe- 
matical sects, each one giving a different answer to seven 
times eight, yet each one declaring that it had the only 
correct answer." 

“It's not quite that simple," said Wembley-Smythe. “You 
can demonstrate with chalk or beans or your fingers that 
seven times eight equals fifty-six but you can’t demonstrate 
so easily which of the claimants to religious truth is right, 
or whether all of them are wrong." 

I agreed that demonstrating religious truth was not as 
simple as reciting the multiplication table but insisted that 
with good will on the seeker’s part, truth could be found 
and had been found by countless millions since Christ 
walked among men. 

“You’ve got to want to find the truth and accept it with- 
out reservations when you find it,” I said. “Recognizing 
truth and accepting it as your standard of life are two dif- 
ferent things. You can recognize it and not accept it." 


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'‘What if I neither accept nor reject what you call truth, 
but maintain a neutral attitude?" he asked. 

"You cannot be neutral,” I said. "Being ‘neutral’ to God 
is tantamount to denying Him. Christ Himself said, 
‘He who is not with Me is against Me.’ Those words are 
either true or not true. There is no middle way. You are 
either for God or against Him. You make the choice. If 
you’re against Him during your life on earth you’ll be 
against Him in the next.” 

"Go on,” laughed Wembley-Smythe, "say it. If I’m 
against Him here, in the next I’ll fry.” 

"And without benefit of palm oil,” I quipped. “Seri- 
ously, however,” I said, "this internment can be a blessing 
in disguise for all of us because we’ve got so much time to 
think and figure out what counts most in life.” 

"You’re right there,” said Wembley-Smythe, ‘‘although 
I really don’t need all the time we’re having to think it out. 
But go on, what else do you think?” 

I said I believed the really fundamental battle lines of 
the world were not between the currently contending armies 
but between forces fighting to control the souls of men 
and such forces were on both sides. Whatever the military 
results of the war the struggle for men’s souls would go on. 

"We can’t be neutral any more than a soldier in battle 
can be indifferent as to which side wins, his or the enemy’s. 
Neutrals will perish wondering what struck them.” 

‘‘If you’re going to perish,” said Wembley-Smythe, "what 
does it matter whether you die knowing or not knowing 
what hit you? You will be dead anyway.” 

"Your body will be dead, yes, but not your soul,” I said. 
"How do you think a neutral soul will fare when it stands in 
judgment before God? There’s a passage in the New Testa- 
ment that gives a good hint. It goes something like ‘because 
you are neither hot nor cold but lukewarm I am about to 
vomit you out of my mouth.’ ” 

"You’re too vehement,” said Wembley-Smythe, "and 


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we’re right back where we started. In the last analysis you 
have to accept on faith that you have a soul that is im- 
mortal and that it will be judged after death. None of 
those beliefs is demonstrable.” 

“Not by test tube methods, no,” I agreed. “But faith in 
the eternal verities is not a matter of test tube proof. It is 
belief because of the veracity and authority of a witness 
whose veracity and authority are unimpeachable. It is be- 
lieving a thing because someone who knows and who 
would not deceive you tells you it is true. Faith is neither a 
pious feeling of sweetness and light nor a haunting premoni- 
tion of doom. It is as solid and real as the air in your lungs 
or as the certainty that there is another side to the moon or 
as the knowledge that seven times eight does equal fifty- 

SIX. 

“You mentioned believing a thing because someone 
who would not deceive you tells you it is true,” said 
Wembley-Smythe. “There's the weak link in your reason- 
ing. You are accepting someone else’s word.” 

“Certainly, we go through life accepting other people’s 
words for most of the things we think and do. If your 
mother tells you about an episode in her childhood do you 
dispute it because you weren’t there? Or do you call Ein- 
stein a liar because your mind can not grasp the theory of 
relativity? All of recorded history is taking other people’s 
words for things that happened. You take almost anybody’s 
word for anything except the most important thing— that 
you have an immortal soul. I take Christ’s word there is a 
hereafter because my reason tells me He proved beyond all 
doubt that He was a qualified authority to speak about the 
hereafter.” 

Wembley-Smythe remained unimpressed. 

“We’ll simply never agree,” he said. “I’d like to know 
whether there is anything after death, but I don’t. And I 
doubt very much that there is. As I said before, when the 
end comes, well, I think it simply will be the end. 


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“If I’m wrong I’ll find out when I awaken someday stand- 
ing outside the Pearly Gates; and if I’m right, there won’t 
be any awakening at all, will there? Just an eternal blackout. 
How dreadfully boring if one were compelled to be aware 
of it!” 

We walked in silence for a while. The moon was drifting 
westward to retire. We decided to follow suit. 

“Good night,” we told each other, “good night.” 


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The Reckoning 


T he Japanese cracked down in the third quarter 
of 1943. The crack-down came in the form of 
a well planned pogrom throughout southern 
Sumatra both inside and outside of war prisoner camps. In 
Palembang itself Ambonese died by the hundreds and 
Chinese by the score. The mortality rate among interned 
Hollanders was considerably lower. I know of eight who 
were beheaded and perhaps a score who were sentenced to 
seven-year terms at hard labor in special Kempeitai prisons. 
Indirectly, however, hundreds of prisoners died during the 
next two years because rations were drastically reduced. 

Looking back it is apparent that the Kempeitai began 
preparing for the purge nearly a year before it happened. A 
preliminary was building of Barracks Camp which began 
coincident with stories in the local Malay language news- 
paper condemning rumor mongering. Shortly thereafter, 
and while we were still in the jail, newspaper announce- 
ments said all radios in possession of natives had to be re- 
ported for inspecting and licensing. Unlicensed radios were 
forbidden. Javanese guards told us that “licensing’' meant 
that all radios capable of receiving short wave broadcasts 
were confiscated. 

A front page Malay language editorial signed by Lieuten- 
ant General H. Kasai, Governor of South Sumatra, said, 
“Natives are filled with propaganda that the Allies will land 
here and destroy the Japanese. Such reports are false and 

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ridiculous. The Allies could long ago have been destroyed 
completely. 

“However, although the Allies will never be able to 
resurrect their strength sufficiently to land troops in force 
here, they probably will attempt air raids or try to land 
small groups of men by submarine. Therefore, the people of 
Palembang must expect anything but also must have confi- 
dence in Nippon’s strength and once again hit at the false 
propaganda from the enemy which is being spread by radio 
or other means.” 

We had just finished translating the editorial and were 
discussing it when a trumpet sounded somewhere outside. 
The notes came closer and closer. Whoever played them 
was moving along the street toward the jail. The music 
sounded high and clear and grew louder. We ran to the 
front gate to peer out and see who the player was. We were 
just in time to glimpse a bicycle ricksha bearing a passenger 
who was blowing the trumpet. The ricksha peddled slowly 
past. The music died away down the street, playing the same 
tune over again, “Whispering.” 

It started us whispering among ourselves. Were unknown 
native friends outside trying to tell us something? Fanciful 
as it sounds now, at the time it was incredibly heartening 
to prisoners grasping at straws of encouragement. From that 
day onward we began to hear persistent rumors of anests 
among Palembang’s Ambonese and Chinese population. 

After we left the jail and moved to Barracks Camp, 
Javanese guards confirmed the rumors as facts and told us 
that we had been transferred so the jail could be used as 
a Kempeitai prison. 

In July, 1943, news of Allied landings in Sicily, of Musso- 
lini’s “resignation” and the succession of Badoglio appeared 
in the Malay newspaper. Joy swept Barracks Camp. But on 
the heels of our elation came ominous developments in 
Palembang. Nearly all Ambonese men in the city and many 
women were rounded up and crammed into Palembang 


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Jail. Javanese guards said the Ambonese were bound hand 
and foot, tied in twos, back to back, and given water only 
once a day. Most of them died. 

Illicit radios and arms were said to have been found in 
homes of Ambonese who were accused of operating a Dutch 
sponsored underground. 

Dr. Ziesel of Charitas hospital was arrested. 

A friendly Japanese doctor told Dr. West that a radio 
transmitter had been discovered operating somewhere on 
the coast; therefore, we could expect more prisoners to be 
crowded in with us. 

“When we are going forward and winning," said the 
doctor, “we must take prisoners and intern them; if we lose 
and retreat, we must take more." 

He unsheathed his sword and pointed to stains on the 
blade near the hilt. 

“Two heads," he laughed. “Cut off in Malaya." 

He sheathed the sword and said he would hke to help us 
but he could not. He had been ordered to be more strict on 
admitting prisoners to Charitas. As for food, we would get 
less because “rice is so expensive." 

Kempeitai agents called at Barracks Camp and took away 
Resident Oranje and his secretary, an Indo-European named 
Lubblik-Weddik. Lubblik had been the chief guitarist of 
our concerts. Soon the Kempeitai men returned and re- 
moved more government servants plus four bankers and 
two coal mine operators. Most of them, including Oranje, 
were returned in a few weeks, badly frightened men. They 
had seen companions— who did not return— emerge broken 
from torture grilling by the Kempeitai who accused the 
Dutch of having instituted and financed the alleged Am- 
bonese underground. 

Kempeitai headquarters was in the former residence of 
a Dutch banker named Geroms, who was among those 
arrested. Ironically, Geroms died in his own house after 
weeks of torture. Prisoners in the room next to his said 


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Geroms defied his inquisitors to the end. They eould hear 
blows rained on his body and Geroms, between moans, jeer 
at his torturers: 

“Hit me again. Hit me again. When the Amerieans eome 
they will hit you.” 

“When the Amerieans eome,” was a popular phrase 
among the Duteh and, judging from newspaper editorial 
fulminations, was also frequently whispered among the 
natives. Our Indonesian guards said it when Japanese were 
out of earshot, but they used it with different shades of 
meaning, contingent upon whether they were Javanese 
secretly friendly or Malays many of whom were hostile. 

Oranje returned to Barracks Camp convinced there were 
informers among us who told the Japanese everything we 
said or did. He ordered Camp News discontinued and all 
back numbers destroyed. Because of increased clinic work 
I had ceased editing the newspaper shortly after coming to 
the new camp. My successor as editor was the Australian 
consular man, John Quinn. Whether Quinn destroyed the 
back numbers issued during his editorship I didn’t ask but 
I considered mine too precious as souvenirs to be burned. 
Instead I buried them. Nick Koot, the young Shell Oil 
engineer who told me the glass eye story, made the neces- 
sary container for me. Using empty cans and solder, he 
fashioned a cylinder of two thicknesses of tin with insula- 
tion between the layers. Acting on a hunch that the Japa- 
nese soon might search the camp I decided also to bury my 
diaries. 

The bicycle inner tube I had bought before my capture, 
also on a hunch, now proved its worth. We cut it into 
strips and used them to seal three wide-mouthed bottles 
which once had contained quinine tablets. Inside the bottles 
were my diaries. Where to bury them worried me next. 

The best place, I thought, was under the cement founda- 
tion of the hospital. Even if the camp were destroyed the 


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foundation would still be there as a landmark after the 
war. But digging under the foundation unobserved was im- 
possible in a crowded camp filled with curious eyes. It had 
to be done so openly that no one would be curious. I en- 
listed the aid of the hospital general handyman, J. F. Jones, 
who could hammer, saw, or excavate with impunity. Jones 
dug a shallow trench alongside the foundation ostensibly to 
change the course of the water pipe running to the hospital 
kitchen. At distances of 27, 30 and 33 feet from the south- 
east corner of the foundation he burrowed under the edge 
of the cement and inserted the tin and the bottles. Then 
he filled in the trench, loudly berating people who kept 
changing their minds about where a pipeline should be laid. 

One week later Kempeitai agents thoroughly ransacked 
the camp. That was the first and last time the Japanese 
ever did a complete job of searching us. And even that job 
was poorly executed. The searchers tired quickly, too 
many bugs. For an hour or so they were painstakingly 
thorough, and since they began with the hospital they went 
through it inch by inch, but after a few hours they grew 
careless and the last stages of the search consisted in little 
more than a helter-skelter tearing apart of men’s belong- 
ings and scattering them on the ground. 

Next day trucks disgorged a score of sick men at the gate. 
Charitas had been closed and its patients returned to their 
respective camps. 

The Japanese had been gradually tightening up at Chari- 
tas ever since the previous January, when Mrs. Curran- 
Sharp, wife of our camp poet, was caught smuggling sixty- 
two letters into the hospital. She was not punished, indi- 
vidually, the Japanese said, because the letters only proved 
the men had been smuggling letters too. From that time 
on it became more difficult to get patients into Charitas. 
Surgeon Peter Tekelenburg and Mother Alacoque, the hos- 
pital superior, sent word to us they feared Charitas would be 


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136 BY EASTERN WINDOWS 

closed eventually. Their fears materialized in September, 
1943 - 

Dr. Tekelenburg accompanied the patients to Barracks 
Camp. He moved into our hospital staff quarters and gave 
Dr. West what small surgieal instruments he had been able 
to salvage and hide in his pockets. 

“You had better keep these,” he said, “because I fear 
the Kempeitai are going to arrest me.” 

They did, and also Mother Alacoque who had been sent 
to the Women’s Camp. Later, the Japanese informed us 
they had sentenced Dr. Tekelenburg and Mother Alacoque 
to seven years in military prison for “aiding the enemy.” 
The enemy was us. The doctor and the nun were paying for 
the letters and money smuggled through Charitas to the 
men’s and women’s camps. 

The Kempeitai charged that the money was connected 
in some way with the alleged Ambonese underground. They 
said the Ambonese and Menadonese in Palembang had 
colleeted funds to give the Allies should the Allies invade 
Sumatra. However, the Kempeitai never did discover Dr. 
Tekelenburg’s radio or that news from it was relayed 
through Charitas. If they had, he and Mother Alacoque 
probably would have been executed, as happened to an- 
other man, in another camp, whose hidden radio was dis- 
covered. 

Not until after the war did we learn the ultimate fates 
of those arrested. Dr. Tekelenburg and 171 Ambonese and 
Menadonese were manacled to long chains and transported 
to a prison camp named Soengei Liat on the island of 
Bangka. Only seven survived the war. Dr. Tekelenburg was 
among the dead. In another group fifty-one Ambonese were 
shot, beaten, or stabbed to death October 30, 1943, on the 
edge of a large pit on Palembang’s outskirts. 

Dr. Ziesel and nine Ambonese were executed, by be- 
heading, November 9, 1943. Oranje’s secretary, Lubblik- 


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Weddik, with three Chinese and some Indonesians, was 
executed November 14, 1944. 

Mother Alacoque and four Ambonese women sentenced 
to prison with her survived. The nun was forced to kneel, 
hour after hour, with her hands behind her and her head 
bare and bowed, while she was grilled by Kempeitai in- 
quisitors. They learned nothing from her. 

Among other Dutch executed in 1943 and 1944 were 
Resident Myndersma, of the Lampong district, in whose 
possession the Japanese found a quantity of letters written 
by internees to their wives in Java to be smuggled by a 
native courier; Police Commissioner Kamphuis, of Tand- 
jong Karang, who confessed to hiding a radio; Resident 
Maier, of the Benkoelen district, and three other men. 
Veer of Tandjong Karang; Walter of Tandjong Enim, and 
Stammershaus of Lahat, all accused of either destroying 
money so the Japanese could not confiscate it when they 
first arrived or of helping finance the alleged underground. 
I was never able to confirm to my own satisfaction that a 
systematized underground, directed by the Dutch, really 
had existed in south Sumatra, although one did operate in 
some other parts of the Indies. 

Bishop Mekkelholt was among those who returned from 
Charitas. He brought copies of the Singapore newspaper, 
telling of a second exchange of nationals between the 
United States and Japan. With sinking heart I saw I had 
missed another chance. The second exchange ship, like the 
first a year before, would pass through Sunda Straits where 
my lifeboat had made landfall in 1942. 

I did not know, of course, that on the ship was prisoner 
of war mail and in the mail a card I had written the previous 
March. It arrived home two days before Christmas, 1943. 
That was the first news they had of me after Java fell. 
United Press followed that lead, through the International 


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158 

Red Cross, and in 1944 received word that my name was no 
longer among prisoners of war in Sumatra. They decided 
then, as did almost everyone except my family, that I had 
died after writing the card. 

On September 14, 1943, within a few days of Charitas’ 
closing, we were ordered to pack for a move to an undis- 
closed destination. We hoped it would be to Java, where 
we understood war prisoners were better fed. Our spirits 
were especially buoyed by a paragraph in the Palembang 
newspaper which said a repatriation ship was leaving 
Batavia, Java, September 23rd. We had wild hopes that 
some of us, at least, might sail on it. 

We were cheerful men as we marched through Palem- 
bang before dawn and boarded a boat in the Moesi river. 
When daylight came we were moving downstream, toward 
the sea, and our hopes of going to Java soared. 

But our ebullience changed to apprehension when the 
boat left the river mouth and, instead of turning southward 
to pass through the straits which lie between Sumatra and 
the little island of Bangka, continued right across them and 
by midafternoon approached the island itself. 

Ever since arriving in Palembang Jail I had heard tales of 
the horrors of Bangka Straits and Bangka Island and its port 
of Muntok. Forty-odd ships— ranging from less than 100 to 
several thousand tons— jammed with refugees fleeing 
Singapore, had been sunk in the Straits in February, 1942. 
A majority of the estimated three thousand passengers on 
them perished. Most survivors swam or floated ashore on 
Bangka beach and, after being rounded up, spent a harrow- 
ing month in the prison at Muntok. Everything they had 
since experienced was as nothing, they said, compared with 
the Bangka Straits and Muntok Prison. They talked as 
though they had been delivered from the jaws of hell in- 
stead of from a man-made jail. 

As we approached Muntok that September afternoon. 


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Eric pointed out a distant promontory, scarcely distinguish- 
able in the haze. On the other side of the promontory, he 
said, was a lighthouse which had been a saving beacon to 
some of his companions but to most had been only a light 
which blinked tantalizingly in their eyes as they drowned. 

On the beach, not far from the lighthouse, Eric had been 
executed and left for dead by a Japanese patrol. 


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The Saga of Eric Germann 


E ric germann, my American fellow prisoner, 
was the only man I ever met who was executed 
and lived to tell about it. His adventure began 
when, wearing a pair of high leather boots and a fireman’s 
helmet donned while helping fight Singapore’s bomb-set 
conflagrations, he boarded the S.S. Vyner-Brooke, a 700-odd 
ton passenger-freighter built for and named after the Eng- 
lishman known as the White Rajah of Sarawak, in Borneo. 

When Eric first saw the vessel in burning, bomb-shattered 
Singapore harbor he thought he was looking at a marvel- 
ously reduced copy of a large Cunard liner. For war pur- 
poses her white surface had been painted battle-ship gray, 
her bridge bundled up with mattresses, her windows and 
portholes covered and she was armed with a rack of depth 
charges, two Y guns and a three-inch anti-submarine gun. 

“She looked tough, chunky and reliable,” said Eric, “and 
I sure was glad to get aboard her.” 

Most of the 250 passengers were women, children and 
old men, plus a few able-bodied fellows like Eric who had 
been given special permits to leave beleaguered Singapore. 
Sixty-three Australian army nurses were assigned cots on the 
promenade deck. White European civilians packed the din- 
ing saloon and Eurasians were jammed in the after-hatch. 
Remaining passengers were sprawled about the decks, corri- 
dors and companionways. The forward hatch held the Chi- 
nese crew which had been replaced in operating the ship by 

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THE SAGA OF ERIC GERMANN 141 

some Malays with British naval ratings and a few British 
army lads picked up because of their previous marine 
experience. 

The Vyner-Brooke threaded her way through the harbor’s 
mine field, closely followed by another refugee-laden vessel, 
the Mata Hari. Aboard the Mata Hari were Doc West and 
Direct Action Drysdale. The two vessels moved slowly past 
the inferno of burning oil tanks that was Singapore’s oil 
storage depot on Bukum island, past the hulk of a blazing 
ship, away from the flaming glow of the water-front and its 
lurid reflection in the harbor; moved out of ear-shot of 
rumbling guns and exploding bombs, straight south into 
the quiet night. 

Eric went to sleep lying between a grossly fat English 
civil engineer whose most recent job had been camouflaging 
Malayan airports, and a middle-aged couple from South 
Africa, Mr, and Mrs. Buridge. 

Six Japanese bombers found the Vyner-Brooke about 
2 p.M. February 14. She zigzagged so successfully that 
twenty-six bombs missed her but the twenty-seventh 
smashed through the forward hatch, exploded inside the 
ship and blew a hole in the keel. A Malay crew member 
rushed onto the deck from a passageway. His hair and cloth- 
ing had been burned off, leaving only his shoes, belt and 
shreds of his shorts which were still smoldering. The Malay’s 
body was covered with immense, flat blisters and yellow 
froth exuded from his mouth and eyes. He tried to speak 
but could only gurgle incoherently. Eric extinguished his 
smoldering shorts and asked two nurses to take him to a 
lifeboat. 

The Vyner-Brooke was filling rapidly and listing. Life 
belts had been issued the night before and passengers in- 
structed that, in case of sinking, they were to descend into 
the water via ropes or Jacob’s ladders and wait to be picked 
up by lifeboats and liferafts. The boats when lowered would 
still be secured to the ship by long drag lines. The rafts 


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would float free as the ship sank. There was little talking 
and no panic as the order was given to abandon ship, only 
a general uncertainty what to do. 

Looking over the side Eric saw that the last boat he had 
helped lower had lodged directly beneath a water condenser 
outlet and was rapidly filling. He hopped over the rail, 
slithered down a Jacob’s ladder and into the boat. He 
loosened the drag line, allowing the boat to drift farther 
back and out of the outlet’s path. Then he discovered the 
real reason it was filled with water. Bomb fragments had 
holed it, as well as three other starboard lifeboats. Only 
their sealed, empty air tanks kept them afloat. 

Women were coming over the tilting sides of the Vyner- 
Brooke in a steady file, lowering themselves into the sea 
and bobbing helplessly away with the current. Eric realized 
that they would be swept away from any possible assistance 
before the liferafts would float free. He determined to get 
back on deck and, despite contrary instructions, to shove 
off the liferafts. 

He had to swim from the lifeboat to the ladder and, 
even with his life belt, his heavy boots dragged him under, 
but he made it. Eric was an expert swimmer and once had 
been a lifeguard at a New York boys’ camp. Hooking one 
leg over the ladder’s lowest rung and with his face under- 
water he shucked off his life belt as being too cumbersome 
for movement, then unlaced and removed his boots. De- 
scending women, still wearing their high heels, used his 
head as a stepping stone into the sea. Each time he removed 
his face from the water to gulp air he berated the women 
for their inconsiderateness, 

“I should have saved my breath though,” he told me, 
“for as I began creeping up the ladder they cursed me, and 
just as fluently as any man. But they had a peculiar reason 
for swearing at me. They shrieked that I was crawling up 
the ladder as they came down just so I could look up their 
legs! 


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“Such modesty stunned me. I wheezed myself to the rail 
without being able to think of a reply.” 

Eric reached the deck only to have four-year-old Mischa 
Warmen thrust into his arms. Mischa was the son of a 
White Russian couple from Shanghai. When the first 
bombs fell Mischa’s panic-stricken father leaped overboard. 
His wife screamed, 

“He can’t swim. Somebody save him. He can’t swim!” 

“I’ll get him,” yelled a British soldier and jumped into 
the sea. 

He reached Mr. Warmen but the frightened White Rus- 
sian seized him around the neck and both men disappeared. 
Mrs. Warmen collapsed. She was unable to help either her- 
self or her son as the Vyner-Brooke sank. A soldier assisted 
her over the ship’s side and someone else handed Mischa 
to Eric. 

“Don’t be afraid,” Eric told the child. “We’re just going 
to jump into the water for a nice, cool swim.” 

Calmly Mischa put his arms around Eric’s neck. Eric held 
his hand over the child’s mouth and nose and jumped. 
Mischa was quiet and smiling when they bobbed to the 
surface and they both laughed. 

Eric swam to the nearly submerged lifeboat and placed 
the child inside. The fat civil engineer was floating nearby 
screaming for help. Eric thrashed after him, silenced his 
cries, towed him to the boat, boosted him in and told him 
to look after the child. A wounded soldier was Eric’s next 
customer. Six or seven people in all got inside the boat and 
cut the fall line. Eric clambered in himself, picked up an 
oar and pulled. The boat was barely afloat, crowded and 
ringed with people clinging to the looped handlines on the 
sides. 

Screams from a nearby liferaft attracted attention of 
rowers. They were amazed to see a woman being pushed off 
the raft by other women. She swam to the boat screaming 
for help. Eric recognized her as a Eurasian hairdresser 


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named Marie, who had busied herself on shipboard helping 
old people and the sick. The all-white occupants of the raft 
would spare no room for a Eurasian. 

“Take her back or we’ll capsize you,” Eric yelled. 

His rowing companions supported him, cursed the 
women for their hard-heartedness and maneuvered the boat 
alongside the raft as though to carry out their threat of 
capsizing it. The women pulled Marie back aboard. 

The Vyner-Brooke turned turtle and disappeared in a 
smear of fuel oil. One Japanese bomber returned to the 
scene, skimmed low over the sea, machine-gunned a life- 
boat and flew away. 

Ginger Sedgeman, chief mate of the Vyner-Brooke^ swam 
up and joined the ring of people clinging to the hand lines. 
Three empty liferafts floated into sight. Men swam after 
them, attached them to the boat with a long line. Everyone 
except rowers then was transferred to the rafts and the long 
pull began to Bangka Island, just visible in the distance. 

After sundown they saw flashings from two lighthouses 
about five miles apart on the coast. Midway between them 
burned a large bonfire. They pulled for the fire. 

Water covered the boat seats on which they sat to row. 
A breeze sprang up, chilling them through their sodden 
shirts. Eric removed his, handing it for safekeeping to the 
fat civil engineer who had proved so useless at an oar he 
no longer rowed. The engineer let the garment float away. 

They landed near the bonfire about half past eight and 
found around it approximately thirty survivors who had 
reached shore earlier. The Vyner-Brooke First Officer was 
there, some soldiers, sailors, nurses and civilian women and 
children. Eric sat hunched on the sand, his knees drawn 
up and his head between them. Despite the fire he shivered. 
He resolved to walk higher up the beach, find dryer sand 
and dig into it to escape the wind. 

As he gathered his strength to move three nurses walked 
out of the darkness. They said a companion was lying 


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wounded on the beach about a mile away. Would some 
men go and carry her in? No one responded. 

“She can't walk," said one nurse. “Somebody must get 
her." 

Pretending not to hear, the watchers only stared into the 
fire. They were tired themselves. Eric’s head was clearing 
of its dizziness. He stood up. 

“Come on," he said harshly, “who’ll go with me?" 

Only one man replied, an English boy who had rowed 
on the same seat with Eric in the lifeboat. 

“I’ll go,” he said, and left the fire. 

Using two borrowed shirts and two oars, they improvised 
a stretcher. The English lad made a final plea. 

“Won’t somebody else come and take turns carrying 
her?" 

No answer. 

“To hell with you then," he said and with Eric set off 
down the beach. 

They found the nurse, her left breast nearly ripped off by 
a bomb fragment, and carried her back. Eric was so tired he 
nearly vomited from fatigue. He staggered higher up the 
beach, near the jungle edge, where lay the bones of an old 
fishing hut. Finding a section of woven palm leaf roofing 
he stuck it into the sand for a windbreak, scooped out a 
hollow for his body and lay down. Sleep came instantly. 

The next day, Sunday, more shipwreck survivors joined 
the group. They spent the day foraging on the jungle edge 
for coconuts and pineapples and for material to make 
stretchers to transport the severely wounded. Malay fisher- 
men appeared late that afternoon with bad news. Bangka 
was entirely in Japanese hands. The nearest food or habita- 
tion was the occupied port of Muntok. The fishermen led 
them along the beach to where a path emerged from the 
jungle. They said it was a short cut to Muntok. 

Sedgeman volunteered to hike into Muntok and request 
a Japanese military escort to give the refugees safe conduct 


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past any hostile patrols into internment. It was agreed he 
should leave early next day. By nightfall there were gathered 
on the beach approximately 70 men, women and children, 
many in need of medical attention. Mrs. Warmen was 
among them, reunited with her son Mischa. Marie, the hair- 
dresser, also was there, an unpopular reminder to the women 
who had shoved her off the raft and been compelled to take 
her back again. 

The Malay who had been so severely burned by the 
bomb-flash on the Vyner-Brooke had been brought ashore 
in a lifeboat but died shortly afterward. He was buried in 
the sand, after much tugging and pushing, because rigor 
mortis had stiffened his outflung arms and legs and he 
wouldn’t fit into the narrow trench scooped out for him. 

Sedgeman left for Muntok Monday at daybreak. Shortly 
after he had gone a metal lifeboat drifted ashore bearing 
six soldiers. One was mortally wounded, died within an hour 
and was buried beside the Malay. Another, named Kingsley, 
became the sixth stretcher case. The other five stretcher 
cases were Mr. Buridge, the South African, who had a bomb 
fragment in his kidneys; an elderly retired magistrate from 
Malaya named Watson, the nurse with the ripped breast 
and two civilian women with shrapnel wounds. 

About nine o’clock it was decided that the civilian women 
and children, led by an elderly Australian miner and two 
soldiers whose arm wounds prevented them from being 
stretcher bearers, should start along the trail. Able-bodied 
men and twenty-one Australian nurses would follow with 
the stretchers. The nurses had fashioned a Red Cross flag 
to carry at the head of their own procession and each of 
them had an indentifying arm band. Mrs. Buridge elected 
to stay with her husband and so joined the nurses. 

Hardly had the first group disappeared when out of the 
same trail came Sedgeman leading ten Japanese soldiers 
and a tiny officer wearing a long sword. The officer ordered 
the men and women to form two lines, then barked at his 


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men. Four soldiers took up sentry posts on the flanks of the 
lines. The officer surveyed the group in silence for so long 
that, one by one, all but eight men broke rank and resumed 
work on the stretchers. The officer conferred with one of 
his soldiers and finally, by gesturing, ordered the eight men 
who were still standing in line to walk down the beach. He 
followed with six soldiers, two of whom carried a machine 
gun. The four sentries remained, bayoneted rifles at ready. 

The soldiers and their eight prisoners climbed over a 
small promontory of rocks and driftwood about two hun- 
dred feet away and disappeared. Three shots, exploding in 
quick succession, sounded from beyond the promontory. 
After a long silence another shot was heard, but muffled, 
as though the gun muzzle had been pressed against some- 
thing soft. Then another silence. 

The stretcher workers looked apprehensively at each 
other but, except for a murmured “afraid they're gone," no 
one spoke. 

Soon the officer and two soldiers reappeared, climbing 
over the rocks. They returned to the stretchers and ordered 
the remaining ten men to march. Chief Mate Sedgeman, 
the First Officer and another man, pointing to their epau- 
lettes, protested they were officers and expected treatment 
appropriate to their rank. The Japanese officer shouted 
them down. 

Eric and Sedgeman were ordered to lift the old magis- 
trate, who had been sitting up in his stretcher, and carry 
him between them. Slowly the doomed prisoners walked 
toward the promontory. Eric suddenly grasped at a desper- 
ate straw. He stopped and called to the ofiBcer. The proces- 
sion halted. 

From his shorts pocket Eric pulled a swollen, water 
soaked wallet containing his passport and $900 in twenty- 
dollar bills. 

“I hoped the passport with its gold seal would impress 
him and he might change his mind," Eric told me. 


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The officer studied it intently but ended by throwing it 
on the sand. In drawing out the passport some of the 
twenty-dollar bills also had come with it. Sight of them in 
Eric's hand caused the officer to burst into a furious tirade. 
Obviously he thought Eric had tried to bribe him. 

Picking up a piece of driftwood he swung it at Eric's 
face. Eric warded off the blow with an upraised hand and 
threw the wallet and its contents after the passport. 

“I won’t need the money any more,” he thought. 

He and Sedgeman then picked up Magistrate Watson 
and labored down the beach. They had difficulty getting 
him over the pile of rocks and driftwood and the officer 
motioned them to leave the magistrate. They placed him 
so he was sitting leaning against a log and shook hands with 
the old man. 

“Goodbye,” they told Watson, and climbed down the 
rocks onto the beach. 

They were in a small cove. At the water’s edge, lying 
face down, sprawled the bodies of those who had gone be- 
fore them. Eric saw only seven bodies. He wondered about 
the eighth. Remembering the first quick shots he presumed 
the eighth man had made a dash for the sea and been cut 
down by rifle fire. The last muflled shot must have been the 
coup de grace for some one who did not die quickly enough. 
The others had not been killed by bullets. That was obvious 
from the wound in the back of the body nearest him, the 
young Englishman who had helped him carry the nurse to 
the fire. There was a short red wound under his left shoulder 
blade. The instrument that had made it, and similar wounds 
on the other bodies, was a bayonet. 

Three soldiers stood near the bodies, wiping their 
bayonets with rags; polishing them carefully as though 
anxious to have naught but the cleanest steel for the next 
job. 

A machine gun was ready to sweep the little strip of 
beach should anyone attempt to run. 


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Eric and his companions were ordered to stand in line 
facing the sea. He noticed two men blindfold themselves 
with their handkerchiefs. He was impressed by the quietness 
of the entire tableau. No one spoke. He looked out over the 
water. The hazy sky and sea seemed especially beautiful 
this morning. 

“What a stupid way to die,” he thought. “And what a 
strange ending— here in the morning sun on a strange island, 
far from anything familiar or any friend.” 

He recalled the assortment of unusual places he had vis- 
ited during a wandering life, but none more strange than 
this. He thought of his family— his brother and his brother's 
wife and his mother. They would never know how or where 
he died. 

In his mind's eye he saw his mother as she taught him 
his prayers when he was a child. Across the years he heard 
her telling him, 

“Eric boy, if you are ever in danger, put yourself in God's 
hands and say His prayer.” 

He began, “Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be 
Thy Name . . .” 

At that moment the First Officer, standing on the other 
end of the line, dashed for the sea. The machine gun 
chattered. He fell to one knee, rose, stumbled again as the 
firing continued and slumped to a halt on his right shoulder 
directly in front of Eric. He was dead, bleeding from a 
multitude of holes. 

Eric continued praying, slowly and with more fervor 
than he had known existed in him. He was saying “deliver 
us from evil” when he was aware that he was no longer 
standing but instead lying face down on the beach. His 
hands were clasped under him, pressing palm upward at the 
right side of his chest. His face was turned slightly to the 
left. His mouth was open and full of sand and water. That 
is, it would be full of water one moment and empty the 
next. He realized the reason— tiny wavelets on the oiiter- 


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most edge of the sea were surging and receding, surging and 
receding. His mind was clear. It told him to lie relaxed and 
still as death and to let the waves bob his head. It told him 
that with each incoming wave his head could bob naturally 
and turn sideways just a fraction of a hair. On the incoming 
rise he could inhale slightly and quickly, like a swimmer; 
and, as the wave receded, exhale slightly and slowly . . . 
but so minutely the Japanese could detect no movement. 
They were shooting men who moved. 

He heard noises of a man vomiting and thrashing as 
though his body were flopping up and down on the sand. A 
shot cracked. Silence. 

He heard a moan almost in his own ear and felt a body 
writhe against him. BANG! The body lay still. 

His own guts crawled and the back of his neck felt as 
though a rifle muzzle were breathing down it. What wind 
he had inside him he held, waiting for the bullet to crash 
into his skull. But it did not come. And did not come. AND 
DID NOT COME! 

By playing dead successfully he might avert it altogether. 
He knew he might be dying from a bayonet thrust but he 
was unaware of pain. 

Metal struck against metal. Feet scuflFed. Probably they 
were dismounting the machine gun. After that the only 
sounds were lapping water. However, he did not move, ex- 
cept for an almost imperceptible twist of his head with each 
wave so he could look, eventually, along the beach. He got 
his head around so that he could peek between his eyelids 
and see a southward section of the beach. No Japanese. But 
he could not risk their being just out of range, sitting at the 
jungle edge watching. Slowly, he let the waves turn his head 
until, after an interminable time, he could look north 
toward the promontory. No Japanese. But he waited. And 
it was well he did. Two soldiers appeared on the rocks and 
surveyed the cove. One of them waved a small flag, as 


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though signaling by semaphore to where the other soldiers 
must be with the nurses. The Japanese disappeared. 

Still Eric lay there, straining his senses to detect the 
slightest sound behind him. How long he waited was im- 
possible to know. He wished he could estimate the time so 
as to guess whether all the soldiers reasonably could be pre- 
sumed to have gone. 

Finally he decided to act. He tested his legs, his hips, his 
arms for life and found them responsive. The moment of 
preparing to spring up was the tensest of his life. He suf- 
fered agonies of doubt in the time it took to gather his 
muscles. What if they were still there, waiting to cut him 
down? He took his hands away from his ribs, turned them 
over to press against the sand and push him upward. He 
counted. 

'‘One . . . two . . . three!" 

And, flexing his knees beneath him, he sprang, hurling 
his body sideways and whirling to scan the beach. It was 
empty but for the dead. In the instant that his eyes flicked 
over their still forms one body especially stamped itself on 
Eric's consciousness. The corpse of the fat civil engineer 
was sitting upright, its sightless eyes looking out over the 
Straits. Eric ran up the slope into the jungle. 

Thorny undergrowth cut his bare feet. He ducked back 
to the beach and ran south, skipping in and out of the trees 
and looking back to see if he had been spotted. For about 
a mile he ran like that until he came to a stream flowing 
into the sea. Turning up the stream he scrambled along 
until he was invisible from the beach. Then he lay on his 
back and rested. 

After a while the pain came and he examined his wounds. 
The pain filled his back and chest with a dull throb. Blood 
oozed from a wound on his lower right chest where his 
hands had been clutched when he found himself lying on 
the beach. Reaching around he felt another wound on his 


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back, opposite the one in front. The bayonet had gone into 
his back and out his chest. 

He wondered why he was still alive and how long it 
would take to die if he were bleeding to death inside. He 
figured the bleeding must be mostly inside because there 
was surprisingly little outside. Still, if he was bleeding to 
death internally he would be weaker and have difficulty 
breathing. And he felt all right, except for the pain and 
fatigue. He could only wait and see what developed. He 
waited, lying there all day and all night, fighting mosquitoes 
and ants. Next morning he ventured to the jungle edge and 
peered out. Nothing. Crossing the stream he headed south, 
hoping to find a kampong—as a Malay village is called— 
where he could get food. He met three disconsolate sur- 
vivors of another ship walking north. They said the light- 
house further south had been bombed and gutted. Eric led 
them north, back across the stream, to the fatal cove. There 
were the bodies of his executed companions. Sedgeman it 
was who had moaned and writhed against him and been 
silenced by a bullet. The fat engineer still sat there, one leg 
doubled beneath him, his wide open eyes staring at the 
water. On the pile of rocks and driftwood, still leaning 
against the log where he had been placed, was the old 
magistrate. His skull had been bashed in. Flies buzzed 
around the mess that had been his head. 

Eric found the nurses too. However, they had been shot, 
not bayoneted. The bodies he examined had single bullet 
holes at the base of the skulls. Rifle shots. He wondered at 
no evidence of machine-gunning. He presumed, from the 
way they were widely scattered along the water’s edge, that 
some bodies had floated away when the tide went out. Four 
bodies lay huddled in one group and three in another. A 
red-haired nurse was lying higher on the beach than the 
others. Her skull had been crushed but the sea had washed 
it clean. Flies were everywhere. 

The stretchers also were where they had been left and in 


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them the patients lay staring sightlessly at the sky. Two 
stretchers were empty. One had been the old magistrate's 
and the other the wounded soldier Kingsley's. What had 
become of Kingsley? Buridge, the South African, and the 
three women had been bayoneted in the chest. Thinking 
perhaps Kingsley had survived bayoneting and crawled into 
the jungle they searched the immediate area and called his 
name. No answer. 

Still scattered on the beach were some of Eric’s twenty- 
dollar bills. He did not bother to pick them up. Of what 
use was money? What he needed was food. 

Abandoning the search they continued north, ultimately 
met some Malay fishermen who gave them water but had 
no food to spare. Muntok was the nearest food. It was that 
or starve. 

In Muntok Japanese soldiers received him casually and 
directed him to a cinema where he found the women, chil- 
dren and old men who had walked away from the beach 
Monday morning. They had met the same patrol, guided 
by Sedgeman, which had executed Eric’s companions. 

Why had the first group been ignored and the second 
slaughtered? Inexplicable Japanese. 

Not only did the fate of a prisoner vary according to the 
individual Japanese who found him but also according to 
the particular moment the Japanese found him. The Japa- 
nese soldier seemed to possess the personality of a Dr. Jekyl 
and Mr. Hyde. He could be gentleman or beast with equal 
naturalness and facility. However, except for war time condi- 
tions on battlefield or in prison camp, the gentleman pre- 
vailed in all the Japanese I have ever personally known. In 
their own country, where I worked before the war, I never 
experienced an unkindness or a discourtesy. 

Soon after Eric’s arrival refugees in the cinema were 
moved into Muntok Prison. There Mischa Warmen’s 
mother died of pneumonia, leaving her little son an orphan. 
There, also, Eric learned why he had seen only seven bodies 


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in the cove when his group arrived for execution. The 
eighth man, a Vyner-Brooke crew member named Lloyd, 
had run into the sea before the Japanese set up their machine 
gun. Three rifle bullets clipped him superficially but he 
dove, swam under water and made good his escape. 

The most fantastic climax occurred when one of the 
Australian nurses. Miss Vivian Bullwinkle, staggered into 
Muntok Prison with Kingsley, the missing stretcher case. 
Miss Bullwinkle was a tall, slender girl in her twenties with 
light brown hair and grey eyes. 

Testifying at a War Crimes trial in Tokyo in 1946 she 
said that after slaying Eric’s group the Japanese soldiers re- 
turned from the cove polishing their bayonets. Standing in 
front of the nurses they unhurriedly continued the job until 
rifles and bayonets were scrupulously clean. Then they 
ordered the nurses and a civilian woman (Mrs. Buridge) to 
line up at the water’s edge and walk into the sea. Shots 
sounded. 

“I saw the girls fall one after the other,” said Nurse Bull- 
winkle, “then I was hit.” 

She fell into the water but did not lose consciousness. 
Like Eric she played possum, pretending death but manag- 
ing to breathe as the waves washed her back onto the beach. 
When she was sure the Japanese had gone, she testified, “I 
sat up and looked around. Then I took myself up into the 
jungle and became unconscious.” 

When she awakened and returned to the beach she 
found she was the only survivor of the women. Kingsley 
was alive and she managed to get him into the jungle; then 
she foraged for food. Wives of native fishermen supplied 
her food for about ten days, until Kingsley became strong 
enough to walk with assistance and they hiked to Muntok. 
The effort was too much for the soldier, however, and he 
died in jail within a few days. 

Miss Bullwinkle said the bullet which felled her entered 
her back at about waist level and passed straight through. 


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Like Eric’s bayonet thrust it missed vital organs and the 
wound healed rapidly. 

Doctors could hardly believe the facts to which Eric’s 
wounds were testimony. They concluded the bayonet must 
have slid between lung and liver without seriously damag- 
ing either. They attributed the absence of infection to the 
thoroughness with which the Japanese cleaned their bayo- 
nets. Eric’s explanation was simpler. He said, “The Lord 
was with me.” 


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Out of the Bangka Straits 


T he most envied people in Singapore Just before 
that shattered colony surrendered to Japan were 
the lucky persons permitted to get away. Their 
less fortunate fellow colonials could only wait for the Japa- 
nese to enter and intern them. But all the lucky ones were 
not so lucky after all. Approximately 3,000 are estimated to 
have perished under the guns of a Japanese task force in or 
near the Bangka Straits. The Vyner-Brooke, with Eric Ger- 
mann and the Australian nurses aboard, was only one of 
approximately forty vessels sunk and another twenty cap- 
tured. 


* * * * 

The Giang Bee found herself being circled by Japanese 
destrovers near the mouth of the Straits. She hove to and 

j 

signalled that aboard her were women and children and 
that, if spared, she would proceed under orders. The Japa- 
nese appeared willing. A small boat put out from a de- 
stroyer. It had covered a quarter of the distance when two 
Dutch bombing planes appeared, attacked but missed the 
destroyer. The small boat turned back. 

Soon came signals from the destroyer giving Giang Bee 
passengers thirty minutes to abandon ship. If they did, for 
nearly half of them it would be as swimmers because there 
were not enough lifeboats. Robert H. Scott, Chief of the 
Far Eastern section of the British Ministry of Information, 

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whose last job in Singapore had been to get war correspond- 
ents safely out of the city, and Lieutenant E. P. C. Langdon 
volunteered as emissaries to plead with the Japanese. A 
dinghy just large enough for two men was lowered over the 
side and Scott and Langdon rowed as hard and as fast as 
they could row for the destroyer. The sun had set. Soon it 
would be dark. 

Aboard the Giang Bee, lifeboats were being prepared for 
lowering. Jimmy Martin, a tough little Australian jockey, 
was working on one of them. Nearby was an injured man 
and his wife and their two blond children, aged four and 
six. The man had been carried aboard with two broken 
legs. Now he was doomed. Lifeboats were only for women 
and children and a skeleton crew to row. Jimmy heard the 
wife ask two men who were standing by idle to help her 
move her husband into a more comfortable position. 

“If you’ll give us a kiss, sister, we’ll move him,” one of 
the men replied. 

“I’ll do anything for my husband,” she said, and kissed 
them as her husband watched, helpless. 

Just then a warning shot was fired by the destroyer. 

“Abandon ship!” 

Women were ordered into lifeboats. 

“Hand me the children,” Martin said. 

“No,” said the woman. “If my husband can’t go, none of 
us will.” 

She removed her own life belt, then the life belts of the 
children. When Jimmy last saw her she was sitting on the 
deck, one arm around her husband’s shoulders, the other 
around her children. 

Jimmy and his helpers loaded one lifeboat and started to 
lower it. A davit rope broke and the stern end dropped, 
spilling its cargo into the sea. 

“I thought the most terrible sounds possible were from 
horses being burned to death,” Jimmy told me in Palem- 


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bang Jail, “but the cries of those women and kids when the 
davit rope broke were worse.” 

Scott and Langdon were halfway to the destroyer when 
it opened fire. Twenty minutes later the Giang Bee sank. 
They changed course to avoid the destroyer and rowed 
slowly, debating whether to pull toward Sumatra or Bangka 
Island. A voice hailed them from the darkness and a hand 
grasped the gunwale. They pulled in W. Probyn Allen’s 
240 pounds. A few minutes later they hauled another man 
from the dark water. When they got him into the dinghy 
Scott said to Langdon, 

“One of us had better get out and walk. Another half 
inch and the gunwales will be under water.” 

They all laughed. The latest passenger was a rubber 
planter from Malaya named H. P. Kendall. He was bigger 
than Allen; not as broad but taller, around six feet two with 
a barrel chest and huge stomach. Scott and Langdon were 
good sized men themselves. 

Together they debated the wisest landfall. They suspected 
Bangka was already captured but Sumatra might still be 
free. Scott knew the approximate direction of the mouth 
of the Moesi river, up which lay Palembang. 

“Let’s try for the Moesi,” he said. 

Two days later they grounded the dinghy at a Malay fish- 
ing village on the Moesi shore. Villagers gave them water 
and food and shelter for several days but declined to keep 
them longer, fearing reprisals from the Japanese who mean- 
while had captured Palembang and were masters of southern 
Sumatra. Surrender was their only course. Barefooted they 
hiked to Palembang. Scott, Kendall and Allen were put in 
Palembang Jail and Langdon in one of the Military camps. 

In another part of the Straits a heavily loaded lifeboat 
pulled laboriously for Bangka Island. Clinging to its sides 
and stern were eight men for whom there was no room in- 


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side. Their ship had been sunk in the afternoon. The cling- 
ing men grew weaker as the hours dragged. They discussed 
with the lifeboat’s skipper their chances of being allowed 
inside the boat. 

“Not a chance,” said the skipper. “Under no circum- 
stances can any more enter.” 

“Then there’s no use hanging on longer,” said one of the 
men, “Cheerio.” 

He relinquished his hold and vanished. Three others fol- 
lowed suit, with a “cheerio” bidding those in the boat 
goodbye. By morning only one of the eight still hung on. 
He was H. E. M. Mason, a 63-year-old rubber planter. 

“I’m too stubborn to die,” he quipped. “You can’t get 
rid of me.” 

When the boat reached shore he waded up the beach 
under his own power, stretched out on the sand and slept. 

The 6oo-ton Li Wo, coastal steamer of the China traders 
Jardine & Matheson, found itself in the middle of the 
Sumatra-bound Japanese invasion convoy. Aboard the Li 
Wo were 120 men, mostly sailors from the British battle- 
ship Prince of Wales, which with the Repulse had been 
sunk off the Malayan coast. R. L. McCann, an Australian tin 
miner, was one of the few civilian passengers. He told me 
that the Li Wo’s skipper, Captain Tom Wilkinson, didn’t 
waste a second debating his predicament. 

“We’ll go down fighting,” Wilkinson declared, “and 
we’ll take one of those Japs with us.” 

The Li Wo had a submarine gun forward and thirteen 
shells. Captain Wilkinson picked out a small transport for 
his target and, ordering full steam ahead, charged the trans- 
port. Whether Wilkinson’s audacity took the Japanese 
completely by surprise or whether they simply failed to spot 
the Li Wo in time, McCann did not know. But the little 
vessel managed to shoot all thirteen of its shells— setting the 
v/arship afire— and then ram the transport. 


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The impact stove in the transport but did not hole the 
Li Wo below the water line. Not yet mortally damaged 
and her engines running, she could still fight. Wilkinson 
ordered full speed astern. 

The Li Wo backed off. She surged forward for another 
ramming attack but by that time a Japanese cruiser had its 
guns on her and blew the Li Wo out of the water. 

McCann was one of thirteen survivors. 

Lieutenant Colonel Lang of the Australian Signal Corps 
had just lain down to sleep for the first time in forty-eight 
hours — because he thought his military launch had safely 
run the Bangka gantlet— when shells blew the launch 
apart. In the few hectic moments before the launch sank, 
Lang noticed a patriotic young corporal seize the boat’s 
ensign, wrap it around himself and jump. 

Lang jumped also. He noticed the launch’s bathroom 
door floating beside him and clung to it. He was still tired 
so he decided to sleep in the water. He tied his feet to the 
bathroom door, lay back in his life belt, and slept. When 
he awakened, the door was supporting three other men, a 
brigadier general, a cook and the young corporal still 
wrapped in the ensign. 

TTie hazy outline of a mountain peak indicated where 
lay Bangka Island. They debated whether to stay with the 
door in hopes of drifting ashore or to leave the door and 
swim. The cook, a poor swimmer, chose the door. The gen- 
eral, the corporal and Lang elected to swim. They bade 
the cook adieu and struck out. 

During the long afternoon Lang went blind from sun 
glare on glass-smooth water. He followed his companions 
by sound. The corporal began talking nonsense. 

“I’m going upstairs for a drink,” he said. 

“Better wait awhile,” said the general. 

“No, it’s just upstairs.” 


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Lang heard a gulp and the corporal ceased talking. After 
a while he asked the general what happened. 

“He went under,” said the general. 

Night soothed Lang’s eyes. Sight returned and he could 
see the Bangka lighthouse flashing ahead. When the sun 
rose next morning, he and the general still were paddling 
in their life belts. The sun rose higher, scorching their 
heads unmercifully. Lang’s eyesight again blanked out. The 
general began talking nonsense. 

“They should have served lunch before we left the ship,” 
Lang heard him say. “We’ll see they do it next time.” 

He jabbered for a long time, then said, 

“I’m going upstairs for a drink.” 

Lang heard him gulp and guessed he was drinking sea 
water. He heard him choke, gurgle, and thrash his arms 
spasmodically. Then silence. Lang could feel the general 
was slumped forward in his life belt, his face in the water. 
He remembered the general had a clasp knife in his 
trousers’ pocket, because he had used it to cut the water- 
swollen knots of the rope which bound his feet to the raft. 
The knife would be valuable ashore. With one hand Lang 
held the general’s collar while with the other he searched 
for and found the knife. Then he let go of the collar. Now 
he was alone and blind. 

He became aware that his own mind was beginning to 
wander, that his thoughts were fuzzy. He knew something 
was wrong because every once in a while his brain would 
wake up and tell him it had been dreaming. He had a 
strong feeling that he need not swim any more because he 
might be swimming in the wrong direction; that if he only 
rested and took a drink everything would be all right. But 
some inner compulsion kept him from drinking and some 
inner strength kept him paddling. Night came again and 
with it vision and the Bangka lighthouse. It flashed and 
flashed and flashed until he became irritated and wished it 


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would stop. Then he was aware that he could see the light- 
house itself, and the reason he could see it was because the 
sky was lightening on another dawn. 

Something bumped one knee, then his other knee. He 
put his hands down into mud. He crawled forward into a 
mangrove swamp and kept crawling and splashing through 
the swamp until he was on dry land. His next knowledge 
was that he was in a hut being given water by a Chinese 
man. 

Lang told me his experience when we met in Charitas 
Hospital. 

Vivien Gordon Bowdon, 57-year-old Australian Trade 
Commissioner to Singapore, had served his government in 
Japan and knew the language, and also the diplomatic im- 
munities to which he was entitled. When Japanese soldiers 
in Muntok began stripping him and his companions of 
their valuables he remonstrated, censuring the soldiers in 
Japanese. 

His companions, who told the story to me, did not under- 
stand what he said but his words enraged the soldiers. They 
marched him off, around a building and out of sight. After 
a long interval shots were heard and the soldiers returned 
without Bowdon. A Chinese resident of Muntok later man- 
aged to talk to Bowdon’s friends and tell them what had 
happened. 

He said he was looking from a window of the building 
behind which Bowdon was shot. He said Bowdon had been 
forced to dig his own grave. As the soldiers held rifles on 
him he used his hands and a board to scoop a shallow 
trench in the sandy soil. Nearby grew some flowers. Bow- 
don was ordered to pick a handful, then stand in the grave. 
While he stood holding the flowers, he was shot. 

The S. S. Mata Hart, which had followed the Vyner- 
Brooke out of Singapore, docked at Muntok without a 


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163 

scratch. The Japanese had allowed her to surrender and 
destroyers escorted her into the harbor. That was fortunate, 
not only for her 400-odd passengers but for other hundreds 
who were interned in South Sumatra for the war’s duration, 
because aboard the Mata Hari were two doctors and a 
small trunk full of medical supplies. The doctors were 
West and J. G. Reed, who also had been on active duty in 
Malaya. 

Tire Mata Hari’s passengers, plus another estimated 400- 
odd bedraggled men, women, and children who came out 
of the Bangka Straits, were jammed into old Muntok Prison 
and an adjoining building which, prior to the war, had 
been used as a quarantine depot for coolie labor in the 
island’s tin dredging operations. The depot was a U-shaped, 
concrete building divided into long, narrow rooms contain- 
ing cement sleeping benches. 

The prison next door had been built originally for life 
term prisoners but when a newer penitentiary was con- 
structed on another island, the Muntok structure had been 
turned into a pepper warehouse. 

Bangka Straits survivors slept on top of pepper sacks in 
one half of the prison, while the other half was occupied 
by 600 Chinese coolies in the last stages of starvation and 
disease. The coolies were labor conscripts, swept off the 
streets of Hongkong after that city’s capture, herded aboard 
ship and into the holds. They were kept under hatches for 
six weeks during the trip south, then dumped off at Mun- 
tok to work on the airfield. But most of them were too far 
gone to work. They could only die. And die they did, every 
day, lying in their own filth, filling the jail with a stench 
that was a blow in the face to newcomers. Since not enough 
coolies were fit for work, the shipwrecked white prisoners 
took their places, marching each dawn to the airdrome, 
where they labored under the muzzles of machine guns, 
and marching back each night. 

Doctors Reed and West set up a makeshift hospital in 


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164 

the quarantine depot which went by the name of the dredg- 
ing company that owned it— Bangka Tin Winning. One 
patient was a Royal Air Force lieutenant with two shattered 
feet needing amputation. West and Reed pleaded in vain 
that he be sent to a Japanese field hospital for the amputa- 
tion that would save his life. Finally, they decided to operate 
themselves. The trunk of medical supplies contained no 
anesthetic except morphine and little in the way of surgi- 
cal instruments. They had no saw. A 6o-year-old refugee 
named W. R. Roberts made a saw from a barrel hoop. He 
cut a section from the hoop, heated and straightened it, 
then filed in the necessary teeth. 

The lieutenant was tied onto the top of a wooden table 
and kept under morphine while his feet were severed with 
the barrel hoop saw. He recovered from the operation only 
to die of dysentery. 

Three Australians removed a wooden door from the Tin 
Winning offices, cut it up and made a coffin for the lieu- 
tenant. He was buried next to Kingsley, who had been 
brought in by Nurse Bullwinkle, in the Dutch Cemetery 
about a mile from the prison. 

Conditions in Muntok Prison and the depot worsened as 
time passed. The places were foul, swarming madhouses 
of sick and hungry men, women, and children, and disease 
ridden coolies who daily furnished fresh corpses for burial. 

In the last week of March, 1942, the prisoners were 
divided into groups. Women, children, the sick, and men 
unfit for work were shipped to Palembang and interned 
separately. Military prisoners, and Dr. Reed, were sent to 
concentration camp. Civilian men, and Dr. West, were 
put in Palembang Jail. Able-bodied civilians were sent to 
the Shell refinery at Pladjoe, across the river from Palem- 
bang, and put to work loading ships. Later, in April, they 
joined us in the jail. That was when I met Eric. 

Throughout my incarceration in Palembang, men shud 


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dered when they spoke of Bangka Island and cursed at 
mention of Muntok. 


4c 4c 4c 101 

Now, in September, 1943, our prison ship was docking 
in Muntok harbor. Trucks waited at the jetty. Except for 
drivers and soldiers, not another person was in sight. We 
clambered into the vehicles with our luggage and they 
lumbered through the deserted town. Windows and doors 
were closed. The only inhabitants seemed to be soldiers 
posted at each intersection along our route. Had the build- 
ings been in ruins the town would have been almost as 
empty as a ghost city through which I walked while cross- 
ing the no-man's land between Occupied and Free China 
during my escape from Shanghai. 

The trucks stopped in front of a high stone wall sur- 
mounted by barbed wire. In the middle of the wall was a 
double gate of solid, iron-studded wood. In one side of the 
gate was a grilled peephole. We looked at the wall and 
the gate and our hearts stood still. 

“Muntok Prison,” whispered Doc West. “It’s Muntok 
Prison.” 

The guard commander inserted a key into a ponderous 
lock, turned it with both hands and pulled mightily. The 
non-peephole side creaked open. He squeezed into the 
opening so he could get his shoulder behind the gate from 
the inside and push. Other guards then pulled and pushed 
open the peephole side. Evidently no one lived now in 
Muntok Prison. 

Inside the gates of thick, heavy wood was a short corri- 
dor, then two sets of barred iron gates. Guards clanged 
them open and we walked through into an empty, barren 
yard surrounded on three sides by vacant cell blocks. The 
fourth side, toward the gate, was enclosed by two high 
fences. The first fence was iron grill; the second barbed 


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wire, curved inward at the top. It was Palembang Jail on 
a larger, grimmer scale. The walls were higher, the cells 
larger and the general surroundings worse. The sepulchral 
stillness of the place, like a waiting grave, chilled us. Of all 
the memories of my life that awful silence, utter and abso- 
lute, is the strongest. 

I had heard of Muntok Prison as a bedlam of moans and 
screams and tears and milling humanity; of filth and dirt 
and disease and corpses of Chinese coolies whose gangren- 
ous limbs were rotting before they died. But there was 
none of that now. Instead, Muntok Prison was uninhabited 
and clean. A bomb-wrecked cell house had been repaired. 
The barbed wire atop the wall was new and taut. Even 
the gravelly yard had been neatly raked. It was as though 
an old charnel house had been purged of corpses and 
cleaned and swept especially for us. But the odor of decay 
remained in the air, oppressive, frightening. 

Wordlessly, because we were beyond words, we lined up 
for counting. We had walked into a tomb and we knew 
it. A feeling of death squeezed my vitals like a closing hand. 

Bangka Island grew pepper and produced tin but no 
food. A sentence read to me by Controleur De Raat from 
a Dutch encyclopedia ran through my mind with the in- 
tonations of a dirge: 

“The Island of Bangka is known for its production of tin 
and pepper and the high incidence of beri beri and cerebral 
malaria. ...” 


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14 

McDougalVs Bedroom isr Morgue 


D aylight faded during the counting— our 
first roll call in Muntok Prison. Puzzled, I 
looked up. The sky indicated that although 
the sun was low it had not yet set. Dusk was coming early 
to the jail yard because walls were high, cell blocks dark 
and we did not have the vistas of Barracks Camp. Spectacu- 
lar sunsets no longer would parade their grandeur. We 
could not see them. Nor would flying foxes wing overhead 
because on Bangka there was nothing for them to eat. 

Counting finished, we bowed, guards saluted. They 
pointed to a wing of cells bounding the yard’s east side. 
Into the cells we went. They were large rooms of stone and 
concrete; each, as we learned by later measurement, 45 
feet long, 22 feet wide and 15 feet high. Even the Japanese 
realized, however, the cells could not hold us all. They 
decided the problem temporarily by decreeing each man 
would have the space of one straw mat, about feet 
long and slightly over two feet wide. Mats were placed 
side by side and end to end without even walking aisles 
between. I was so tired I slept almost immediately. 

Guards turned a deaf ear next day to pleas that we be 
allowed to spread out and occupy other empty cells— more 
prisoners were coming. They arrived in groups as the 
Japanese closed other small civilian internment camps in 
south Sumatra and consolidated all internees in Muntok 
Prison. We thought we had been crowded in Palembang 

167 


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168 BY EASTERN WINDOWS 

but we had not known what real crowding was. There, 
men at least had shelves to sleep on. Except for one cell 
block there were no shelves in Muntok Prison. Men lay 
on the floors with their belongings. By October 10th there 
were 685 men inside a place built for a quarter of that 
number. When everyone was settled we were able to re- 
arrange our spaces so that there was at least a narrow aisle 
beside each row of mats. 

Despite crowding we were cheered for a few weeks by an 
increase of rations, principally dried fish. But, when boats 
ceased bringing more prisoners from Sumatra, they also 
stopped bringing food. 

Every inch of the prison was combed for nails, bits of 
wood or metal. Direct Action Drysdale noticed a chicken 
scratching persistently at a spot which had been a bomb 
crater when he was there in 1942 and had been filled. He 
dug where the chicken scratched and found a soldier’s 
aluminum mess tin and some bits of metal which he made 
into wrist watch bands and sold to the guards. 

Commandant of Muntok Prison was a sad-faced little Jap- 
anese civilian whom Doc nicknamed “Peanut.” He talked 
and acted as though he was genuinely sorry for our predica- 
ment and in many ways he did his best to help us. Peanut 
blamed food shortages on the military who, he said, hogged 
available supplies and would not cooperate with the Jap- 
anese civilian administrators. He said we would be better 
off if the military would take back control of internees. 

Peanut was concerned at our mounting sick rate and 
contrived to find extra food for hospital patients. The 
Chinese contractor, who had been brought from Palem- 
bang, said the little commandant himself scoured the 
island for supplies. Peanut found papayas, eggs and small 
amounts of unpolished red rice, more nourishing than 
ordinary white polished rice. Seldom did he bring in more 
than a few papayas or a dozen eggs at a time but what he 
did bring helped sick men immeasurably. 


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McDOUGALL’S BEDROOM & MORGUE 169 

* 

Peanut’s greatest contribution to prisoner morale was 
news. We were starved for news, having been cut off from 
the undercover newspaper and radio sources we had in 
Palembang. Peanut filled the gap. He could speak and 
write crude English and he issued written “communiques” 
that were gems of backward sentences and twisted gram- 
mar but the content was dear. 

His usual procedure was to summon Doc West. While 
Doc sat answering polite but vague medical questions, 
Peanut would be writing a translation of a Japanese news- 
paper or mimeographed army bulletin. Occasionally Doc 
even procured one of the papers, to be deciphered by a 
priest. Father P. H. van Gisbergen, who, from his knowl- 
edge of Chinese and with the aid of a Japanese dictionary, 
made rough translations. Thus we learned American forces 
were suffering colossal defeats on various Pacific islands; 
but each defeat apparently resulted in their gaining posses- 
sion of the island. 

We wondered what would be Peanut’s fate if his superi- 
ors discovered he was relaying us war news. 

Flowers for funerals were another of Peanut’s innova- 
tions. And he kept the coffin supply abreast of demand. 
Since a body had to be carried outside in a box and we were 
without cold storage facilities in a tropic climate, it was 
important that a coffin be available not too long after 
death. Therefore, when a man was dying the guards were 
notified so a box could be ordered from the Chinese coffin 
maker who nailed together wooden planks supplied by the 
Japanese. The working party, whose job it was to carry in 
the boxes, also sometimes arranged with the coffin maker— 
for a substantial bribe and large profit for himself— to put 
food inside an incoming coffin. That was one black market 
source. Peanut not only saw that the coffin supply was 
adequate but with each furnished a huge wreath of brilliant 
flowers— yellow frangipani and alamanda, purple bougain- 
villea, red hibiscus, blue and white passion blossoms, crim- 


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170 

son four o’clocks. He attended all funerals, standing with 
bared head during services. 

Doc West told him that if he rustled more food instead 
of flowers we would need fewer coffins. Peanut replied that 
he was very, very sorry, but his superiors would not allow 
more food; therefore he bought the flowers with his own 
money. He was such a nice little guy we believed him. 

Peanut's communiques relating Allied successes touched 
off a flurry of betting as to when the war would end. An 
Englishman named M. L. Phillips, known in Malaya for 
his stable of race horses and gambling luck, offered to 
wager 25,000 guilders or its equivalent in Straits dollars— 
payable after the war— that we would be free by January 1, 
1944. He had no takers because no individual would bet 
that kind of money and Phillips refused to wager against 
a pool. However, his offer engendered such gambling 
optimism that bettors in the five and ten guilder class 
raised their antes to fifty and one hundred guilders. Con- 
troleur De Raat believed the war would end by November 
1, 1944, and bet me fifty guilders to that effect. I picked 
June 1, 1945 as my date and bet twenty-five guilders we 
would not be free until then. A half dozen listeners jumped 
at the wager and such a heated argument developed over 
who got first crack at the bet that it ended by no one's 
taking it. 

We had to depend entirely on our own hospital facilities. 
There was no Charitas in Muntok to take our critically 
sick or send us medicines. Our hospital was assembled in a 
group of storerooms and solitary confinement cells along 
the south wall and was separated from the rest of the 
prison by a barred iron fence. I spent all my time in the 
hospital dressing major skin cases. Out-patients were 
treated in the clinic on the other side of the fence inside 
the prison yard proper, because it was easier of access. 

Three more doctors came with the new prisoners: Holl- 
weg, who had been released by the Kempeitai after months 


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McDOUGALL'S BEDROOM & MORGUE 171 

of solitary confinement; and two other Hollanders, A. P. A. 
Boerma and Willem von Woerkom. Hollweg took charge 
of the clinic, assisted by Allen and two other dressers; 
Boerma and Woerkom divided the cell blocks between 
them and treated in their cells men who were too sick to 
walk to the clinic but not sick enough to be considered 
major cases eligible for the precious space in our hospital. 

When Dr. Hollweg returned to us in Muntok Prison 
he found that our hospital had grown from a two cell 
affair with a staff of four, as it had been in Palembang }ail, 
to a major institution with a staff of forty. He may have 
resented, despite the fact it was the Camp Committee's 
request, that Dr. West continued as head of the hospital. 
Dr. Hollweg’s attitude toward Dr. West and his staff 
became distinctly cool. No longer was he the raconteur 
who entertained us with tall stories, as of old. Instead, he 
seldom spoke to us except on medical matters. 

At one end of the hospital, next door to a crude one- 
holer which served us, was a cubicle containing a miniature, 
unused bath tank. We were so cramped for space that 
when Doc suggested I convert the cubicle into a private 
bedroom by covering the tank and sleeping on top of it, 
I gladly acquiesced. Next to food and news, privacy was 
the most precious commodity in jail. The tank top, covered, 
was just wide enough and long enough to sleep on. Between 
the tank and the door was room for my jail-made chair of 
wood and rice sacking. I could study— shorthand and 
Malay— and read in solitude. 

Weeks passed. Doc had another idea. A dying man was 
entitled to privacy if he could get it. There should be 
some place he could lie besides shoulder to shoulder with 
other patients. Sometimes men groaned in coma for days 
before death came, and that was hard on other patients. 

We agreed that when a man was on his final lap of life 
he could die in my bedroom. I would sleep elsewhere until 
it was possible to move back. 


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172 

I changed places with dying patients so frequently that 
in time my sleeping quarters became known as “McDou- 
gall's Bedroom & Morgue.” Its reputation was so notorious 
that we put patients in there only if unconscious or too 
far gone to care. Only one other man besides myself slept 
in the room and left under his own power. He was a patient 
who fooled us by recovering. 

Near my “Bedroom & Morgue” was a windowless solitary 
confinement cell we used as a storeroom. There it was we 
performed a secret autopsy. A man died after an illness 
that for a time baffled doctors who differed among them- 
selves as to whether or not it was an intestinal obstruction. 
West and Boerma believed it was an obstruction and that 
only an operation would save the patient. Hollweg be- 
lieved the cause was something else. 

On the other side of Bangka Island, at Pangkal Pinang, 
was a Japanese hospital. Military authorities refused to 
allow the patient to be taken there. When he died the 
doctors decided to perform a post mortem examination, 
both to settle their own dispute and for the sake of other 
men who might become similarly ill. The autopsy had to 
be secret, not only from guards who might interfere but 
also from fellow prisoners. The fewer who knew the better. 
Resident Oranje gave permission. 

We did not notify the Japanese of the death until too 
late for burial that day. We carried the body into the store- 
room for encoffining but, instead of nailing down the lid 
after the guards had viewed the corpse and were satis- 
fied the man was dead, we merely pounded to make a 
noise. 

Handy men of the hospital staff were G. P. Harrison, 
assistant chief engineer of the Malayan Railways and R. E. 
Earle, Chief Electrical Engineer of the Singapore Harbor 
board. From barbed wire they fashioned retractors to hold 
open the abdominal incision. From the key opener to a 
sardine tin they made a surgical needle. And by unraveling 


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a piece of canvas they made '‘surgical thread/’ to sew up 
the incision. 

After the inside guard made his half hourly round at 
3:30 A.M. Harrison, Earle, West, Boerma and I met in the 
storeroom, sealed the door behind us with a tarpaulin and 
blankets and went to work. Earle sat outside to watch for 
light leaks. The light was from an oil lamp and flashlight 
the Japanese allowed us for hospital use. 

We removed the coffin lid and laid it down gently. The 
dead man had been a big fellow. He had gone in without 
difficulty when his corpse was still warm and pliable but 
now rigor mortis had wedged his wide shoulders against 
the sides of the narrow box. 

"Tip the coffin on its side and pry him out,” West sug- 
gested in a whisper. 

Harrison vetoed that as "too apt to make a noise.” 

"We can do it with team work,” Harrison said. "Each 
of us get a hand hold somewhere on the same side, under- 
neath him, and pull up when I count three.” 

We each squeezed one hand under him and put the 
other on the coffin edge for leverage. 

"One, Two, Three!” 

Up came the left shoulder. We laid the body on the 
cement floor and the autopsy began. Boerma’s scalpel 
sliced into cold flesh and moved downward, Harrison and 
I crouched on opposite sides of the body, holding open the 
incision with our crude retractors. West held the flashlight. 

The flickering oil lamp, on the floor at the foot of the 
corpse, threw our shadows on walls and ceiling in monstrous 
caricature. Since ventilation was cut off by the blocked 
doorway, air in the concrete chamber became oppressive. 
The doctors consulted in occasional whispers. For long 
intervals the only sounds were those heard solely in these 
certain and peculiar circumstances: the faint tearing of 
parting flesh; tiny protesting suctions of viscera pulled from 
lifelong habitations. 


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174 

At last they found it. The fatal adhesion two doctors 
believed must be there and the third had doubted. While 
probing in the cavity they explained to Harrison and me in 
whispers what had happened. They held up the affected 
organs and showed us how death had come about and how 
it might have been prevented had operational facilities 
been available. They decided that no matter how desperate 
a gamble an emergency operation might be in our circum- 
stances it would be the only possibility should such a case 
occur again. 

They replaced the entrails, pulled the incision together 
with large stitches and we lifted the body back into the 
coffin and pushed the shoulders down. The doctors left. 
Harrison and I washed the floor and waited for morning 
roll call. When it rang, filling the yard with clangor, we 
nailed shut the coffin. 

After roll call I moved back into “McDougall's Bedroom 
& Morgue” and lay down for a short rest before beginning 
daily hospital rounds. 


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15 

Malaria 


k PREMONITORY chill, like a cold wind, passed 
l\ through me and was gone during church serv- 
X ices Sunday morning December 12, 1943. My 
eyes were acting strangely, my teeth were on edge and I 
felt light headed. A second chill prickled my flesh into 
goose pimples. Five minutes later a third came, then a 
fourth. By the time Mass ended I was shaking uncon- 
trollably. I walked back to the hospital and asked Dish- 
washer Banks if he could find me an extra blanket. He 
brought his own and threw it over me where I lay in my 
Bedroom & Morgue, shivering as though I had stepped 
from a Turkish bath into a refrigerator. 

Cold was welling inside my guts like an icy fountain, 
and soon diluted the warmth of a hot drink Banks also 
brought. The chills ran in cycles of intensity. First would 
come a warning flutter, a trembling that would rise swiftly 
to a crescendo of bone-rattling paroxysms. Then would fol- 
low a period of uneasy quiescence while I waited for the 
next one. The intervals between spasms grew shorter and 
their violence greater. They began in the very center of me, 
in my stomach where something tensed and writhed, send- 
ing tremors outward and setting up muscular vibrations 
which spread in ever widening circles until even my fingers 
and toes twitched and my teeth became chattering casta- 
nets. Shudders ran along nerve and sinew and bone in con- 

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tinuous waves, cold and hot by turns and accompanied by 
thirst and nausea. 

There was a grand climax of convulsion, then gradually 
the trembling decreased as if its own violence had generated 
heat to melt the chills. Before the last fluttering died I 
glowed from an inner fire, a steadily burning dry fever that 
mounted during morning and afternoon, turning my head 
into one throbbing pain which crowded vision from my 
eyes. The room swam in a hot mist. 

An indescribable depression obsessed me, filled me with 
forebodings. Dreams which were not really dreams, nor 
yet hallucinations, but formless terrors of the mind, stalked 
my room, settled shapelessly beside me on the bed. I was 
conscious, aware that the indefinable things which troubled 
me were imaginary, but that knowledge was no comfort. 
Rather, it whispered of insanity. 

I thought of a husky young Dutch engineer who had died 
several weeks before from a sudden and undiagnosed fever. 
He had walked into the hospital complaining, 

“Something is wrong with my head." 

He had a temperature of 39 Centigrade (102 Fahren- 
heit). During the fourteen hours before he died his tem- 
perature rose to 41.8 C. (107.2 F.) Doc listed the cause 
of his death as “pyrexia of unknown origin." The phrase 
ran through my mind as I lay awake, fuzzy-brained and 
burning. Did I have the same thing? What was it? The 
sentence from De Raat’s encyclopedia flashed like a neon 
sign: 

“The island of Bangka is known for its production of tin 
and pepper and the high incidence of beri-beri and cerebral 
malaria." 

Cerebral malaria was the deadliest kind. 

“If it doesn't kill you," Hollweg once said, “it often 
leaves you silly in the head. Better die than have your brain 
burned out." 


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MALARIA 


177 

His words danced through my mind in a silly song to 
the tune of “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush!” 

“Better to have your brain burned out, brain burned out, 
brain burned out. Better to have your brain burned out so 
early in the morning.” 

Sleep must have interrupted the song because suddenly I 
was awake, clear minded and clammy with sweat. The 
fever was gone, replaced by rivers of sweat and tons of 
soggy blankets. The headache was gone too. It was night. 
Clarity of thought brought increasing sensitivity to the cold 
stickiness of my surroundings. I began to shiver. 

“No more of that stuff,” I said to myself, “I’m getting 
up and get dry and warm.” 

My bed on top of the tank was four feet off the floor. 
I slid from the tank. My feet touched concrete but there 
was nothing between feet and hips. My knees folded like 
jackknives and I sat down. Nor could I rise. I remained sit- 
ting leaning against the tank, until old Kendall who had 
replaced Prior as ward matron, came clumping by on one 
of his hourly trips. He lifted me back into bed. 

Sleep refused to conquer my restlessness and cold. When 
daylight came I tried again to get up and walk. Success. 
Shakily I made my way outside into the sun and sat down. 
Doc West came along. 

“Get back in bed,” he said. “Sun’s not good for you.” 

I attempted to rise and could not. My knees were un- 
hinged. He helped me back to my feet and boosted me 
into bed. Immediately shivering began. Harrison appeared 
with a hot drink. Fever replaced the chills. Dreams came 
that were not dreams because I was awake, and not hallu- 
cinations because I saw nothing; nevertheless, they were 
real and unnerving. 

Talking was relief so I talked aloud, to myself. Fre- 
quently the words I heard had no connection with what I 
thought I was saying. Talking was an escape valve for the 


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178 

pressure inside me. The pressure made me want to get up 
and run, anywhere just to be running, away from the walls 
of the room which were closing in, away from the hard mat 
which galled my hips and shoulders, away from dully 
aching bones. If I could run I could leave the pressure 
behind. But my legs wouldn’t run. If the pressure got any 
higher it would blow a little hole in the top of my 
skull and escape with a whistle. I didn’t want to be a 
whistle. I managed to sit up and immediately began to 
fly. 

Arms seized me, pushed me back to the mat. 

“Hey,” said a voice, “you nearly fell out of bed.” 

My eyes focussed on a face. 

“Boswell,” I said. “Norman Boswell.” 

“Yes,” said the face. “Doctor West said you wanted to 
talk to someone.” 

So I began talking about Shanghai restaurants, describ- 
ing in detail every place I had eaten there and many which 
were purely imaginary. 

“You don’t mind if they’re imaginary, do you?” I asked 
Boswell. 

He did not reply. I looked carefully where he had been 
sitting. He was not there. Instead, West and Engineer 
Harrison were looking down at me. I tried in vain to tell 
them what strange thoughts were ballooning in my mind 
but my tongue wouldn’t cooperate. It spoke not what my 
brain ordered but only words without meaning. Frantically 
I tried to tell Doc I wasn’t delirious, that it was just my 
tongue not working. But the words that came only made 
him laugh and tell me to go to sleep. 

Not only would my tongue refuse to obey, my brain 
also played tricks. 

A thought would flash into consciousness, then as sud- 
denly vanish, leaving the impression it had been a good 
thought but no recollection of its substance. 

It was like fighting drowsiness when driving an automo- 


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bile. The mind goes blank for split second intervals until 
fear rings an alarm and you see the road again. You're 
scared stiff you’ll doze off and smash up; but you can’t 
stop driving. Rationality came like that, in sudden spurts, 
with knowledge there were blank or delirious spaces be- 
tween. 

I was helplessly and miserably aware of the addled state 
of my mind and tongue. I have distinct and vivid recollec- 
tions of the episodes described here. They occurred during 
the first forty-eight hours of the fever. After that. Doc later 
told me, my conversation was limited to two endlessly re- 
peated words: “Skip it.” 

There are a few more shadowy memories of peering 
through a mosquito net and saying “hello” to silent figures 
sitting beside the bed. Eric was there, and Father Elling 
and Father van Gisbergen, the translator, and Father Bak- 
ker. Next is a dim memory of being carried in someone’s 
arms. After that was the awakening. 

I was lying in a bed not my own and in a room not my 
own. Father Filing’s face was just above mine but his voice 
came from a distance. He was saying, 

“Merry Christmas!” 

Again I awakened. It was night. A light was burning 
nearby. A ward attendant named Koopal was shaking me. 
He put his lips close to my ear and asked, 

“Do you want to hear the choir?” 

“Why?” I wondered aloud. 

“Christmas Eve concert,” he said. 

Yes, I wanted to hear it, but I could hear nothing. Won- 
dering what Koopal was up to I fell asleep. 

When I awakened again it was day. Visitors were in the 
ward, shaking hands with patients. But no sounds came 
from their moving lips. All I could hear were bells. Thev 
rang so long and steadily I realized, finally, they were not 
bells. The ringing was in my own ears. 

I tried to sit up. Someone noticed my efforts and propped 


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me up with a board behind my back. Doc West strode up, 
grinning. 

“Fm deaf,” I told him. 

He leaned down and shouted. 

“Quinine!” 

That also explained the shuddering bitterness of my 
mouth. Harrison appeared with a cup of something to 
drink. He spoke into my ear. 

“Have a Harrison eggnog.” 

I drank. It did taste like eggnog. I started to ask “how 
come eggnog?” but the effort to speak was tiring. I dozed 
off. Next day Koopal brought a bowl of rice gruel in which 
had been broken a soft boiled egg. Talking was easier. I 
asked about the egg. 

“From Peanut,” said Koopal. “Christmas present.” 

Doc was there again, grinning as usual. 

“You can have an egg every day as long as there are any. 
And here’s something else.” 

He put a spoonful of Australian tinned butter in the 
gruel. Where he got it I didn’t know. He made light of 
thanks. 

“Skip it,” he said. “We’re trying to get you back on your 
feet. You can have a spoonful every day, while it lasts.” 

Other friends brought me extra bits of food. Eric and 
Canadian Christie procured a coconut and made a pudding 
of shredded coconut meat and rice. Mike Treurniet, one of 
the clinic dressers, owned a duck. He killed it and made 
broth. Harrison and Kendall gave me slices of papaya, 
secured through the Chinese contractor. Gradually my ears 
stopped ringing, my strength returned. 

On New Year’s Day Mike Treurniet gave me a genuine 
American cigaret. He had brought a tin of cigarets into 
internment and saved it to open for some celebration. 
Often we had solemnly but indecisively discussed what the 
occasion would be. 

“Where’s your will power, Mike?” I asked when he 


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handed me the cigaret. “Couldn't you wait for the big 
day?” 

“We’re celebrating you,” he said. “Last week we thought 
you might not be around for New Year’s.” 

“Nuts,” I said, and breathed the first ceremonial puff. 
“Anyway, here’s to 1944!” 

I blew out a lungful of smoke. 

“Happy New Year,” said Mike. 

Deeply I inhaled again, right down to the innermost 
crevices. What blissful pleasure to blow out American 
smoke and watch it float away, mingling with the thin 
spiral from the cigaret end. 

Then came payment time— the reaction of giddiness and 
a pounding heart. 

“Hey,” said Mike. “You better not smoke any more.” 
An itch followed the fever, making sleep impossible. The 
night of January 3rd the itching felt as if a host of little 
worms with red hot bellies was wriggling on my chest. I 
rolled and tossed and scratched. The tormentors only 
spread out, creeping over my stomach and down my legs. 
I pulled the hair of my head as a counter irritant. 

From the Bedroom & Morgue, from which I had been 
moved to make room for a dying man, sounded long drawn 
moans and occasional cries. Each outgoing breath was an 
exhalation of woe. Whether he was conscious or uncon- 
scious I knew not; or if conscious, whether his moans were 
from pain, loneliness or despair. Hour after hour the 
groans continued. Somewhere outside the jail a dog began 
to howl. The dog’s howling and the man’s cries blended in 
a harrowing harmony. Together with the itch they made 
my bed unbearable. I got up and managed to totter out of 
the ward. The night attendant grabbed me. 

“What in hell are you doing out of bed?” 

“The itch,” I said. “Got to have fresh air.” 

The attendant eased me into a wicker lounge chair that 
was used daytimes by a paralytic. 


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“Want a smoke?" asked the night man. 

“Sure, got one?" 

“A real one, too." 

“From Mike?" 

“No. Guess after you taste it." 

He walked to the oil lamp in the ward, lit the cigaret 
and, returning, handed it to me. Already I had caught the 
odor and knew whence it came. 

“Smells like Tokyo." 

“Right. The guard gave me a couple. New Year’s pres- 
ent. He said New Year’s was the Japanese hari rayah. Did 
you know that?" 

Hari Rayah is the Malay term for a Big Holiday. 

’Yes," I said. “I knew it." 

Because New Year’s Day is sacred to the Japanese— the 
biggest day of their year— my escape from Shanghai had 
been facilitated. 

On New Year’s morning, 1942 , 1 was lying in the bottom 
of a sampan in a canal west of Shanghai. Further progress 
along the canal was barred by an iron gate which let down 
into the water from a railroad bridge above. On either side 
of the canal lay a heavily garrisoned village. Japanese and 
Chinese puppet guards were on the bridge. A Chinese offi- 
cial in the puppet Nanking regime was scheduled to appear 
at the bridge at 9 a.m. and pay New Year’s Day compli- 
ments to the Japanese garrison commander and his troops. 
The Chinese was scheduled to do it because he was secretly 
a Chungking man and the guerrillas who were smuggling 
us out of Occupied China had so arranged with him. 

In the sampan with me were my fellow correspondents, 
Robert “Pepper" Martin and Francis Lee, and several 
guerrillas. 

Promptly at 9 a.m. the Chinese official appeared with his 
retinue at the bridge. The Japanese guards retired to a 
nearby tea house to drink a toast, in saki, to their Emperor. 
When their ringing Banzais sounded, bribed puppet guards 


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on the bridge raised the iron gate, our sampan shot through 
and the gate dropped down behind us. Sixty-six hours later, 
about 3 A.M. January 4, 1942, we crossed the last barrier— 
the Nanking-Hangchow highway— and stepped into Free 
China. 

Now it was about 3 a.m. January 4, 1944. I took the 
last drag from the cigaret and asked the attendant where he 
had been New Year’s Day, 1942. 

“Right here in Sumatra, working in the oil fields.” 

My ears were clear enough by now to hear little sounds— 
the scuffle of boots in the nearby guardroom, the rattle of 
wire as rats scampered, like tight rope walkers, along the 
top of the fourteen foot fence which separated the hospital 
from the jail yard. Once Doc West and I shook the fence, 
unbalancing a rat. It fell with a plop to the cement and 
lay there stunned. We were too surprised by our success 
to kill it before the rat recovered itself and scampered away. 
In Palembang Jail one morning Allen and I awakened to 
see a rat crouched, perfectly still, with its nose just touching 
the edge of the hole where it lived. At first we thought the 
rat was mad, then we realized it was dead. 

“Heart failure,” said Allen, “right on his own doorstep.” 

Toward morning the dying man’s groans faded to a death 
rattle. When the rattle ceased the attendant investigated. 
Returning, he said, 

“He’s gone.” 

I wondered aloud how long it would take to get a 
coffin. 

“We have one already,” said the attendant. “The one we 
ordered for you.” 

He wasn’t kidding either. A little chill settled in my 
stomach. 

Weeks later I asked Father Filing if it were true I had 
been that close to death. I had been. Two days before 
Christmas he had kept vigil at my bedside, hoping I would 
recover consciousness long enough to receive the Last Sacra- 


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ments. Having nothing else to do while waiting, he had 
composed part of a sermon for delivery at my funeral which 
he thought would be Christmas Day. 

Unlike the young engineer who had died too suddenly 
to establish a malarial pattern, my illness ran a sufficient 
course, from December 12th to 26th, with the climax on 
the 23rd, when, instead of killing me, the fever unexpectedly 
broke. Luckily for me Doc West had a small supply of 
quinine. Palembang had been a malaria free area and I 
was the first of the Bangka cases. Consequently his slender 
stocks of quinine had not all been used. Luckier still, he 
had found, by accident on the 22nd, some pills of an 
unusual variety of quinine which my system absorbed more 
readily than the ordinary kind. The new pills tipped the 
balance in my favor. 

In all the long, terrible months ahead of us in Muntok 
Prison, no other man survived cerebral malaria. 

By January 1 5th I was able to walk as far as the kitchen 
where were some scales. I weighed 46^^ kilograms (102.3 
pounds). Just what I had weighed as a schoolboy in the 
ninth grade. I remembered the figure well because the day 
I weighed it had been a big one in my school life. The 
scales then proved I was over 100 pounds and could prac- 
tice for the football team. 

Doc laughed when I told him. 

“You'll soon be casting a shadow,” he said. “Two weeks 
ago ril bet you didn’t weigh ninety.” 

That night I lay awake thinking of my good luck in 
surviving and contrasting my two trips in two years down 
into the valley of the shadow of death. The first trip had 
been in the Indian Oeean after my ship sank. Then I had 
been keenly aware of my predieament and for nearly an 
entire afternoon had swum and thought and prayed. But 
on this seeond trip I had not even been aware of the dan- 
ger until it was over. How blindly and in ignoranee of his 
peril can a man slip out of lifel 


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16 

How Men Starve 


M alnutrition is like age. it creeps up on 
a man but not without warning because an 
empty belly is its own perpetual alarm. For 
just as a man awakens in the morning and his joints tell 
him he is getting old, so the hungry man awakens and 
swollen limbs tell him he is starving to death. 

Like cold, hunger numbs the body and the mind. No 
matter how vividly hunger is described it can not be under- 
stood until it has been felt. I thought I knew something 
about hunger after seeing so much of it in China. I thought 
I knew it intimately in prison where men were dying around 
me and I nursed them as my own stomach crawled with 
the ache for food. But I didn't really know about hunger 
until I awakened one morning to find my own feet swollen. 
'Fhen I knew. 

Unless you who read this get that way you won’t know 
either. So there is little use trying to describe how hunger 
feels. All I can do is tell what we who were starving 
did. 

Whether hunger changes a man’s essential character is 
debatable. I think it does not. Others differ. They say, for 
example, that hunger makes thieves of men who otherwise 
would never dream of theft. I say that they were already 
thieves at heart and hunger only brought it out. The man 
who would steal from a starving neighbor was dishonest 
about lesser things in normal life. Men of stronger con- 

185 


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science would die before stealing from a hungry fellow 
prisoner. 

Hunger throws into bold relief a man’s true self. It strips 
away the false front behind which hypocrites masquerade. 
From others it removes the mediocrity which disguised 
them as only ordinary men and reveals the hidden rock of 
noble character. 

Hunger, in my opinion, does not change the intrinsic 
things that make one man good and another bad. It only 
accentuates the stuff of which a man is made. His reaction 
to the realization that he is dying of starvation depends on 
the kind of man he is. He may quit trying and lie back on 
his mat in a state of apathy, or he may work still harder to 
live. If he is a quitter and does not try he also usually is a 
chronic bellyacher. Loudly he denounces as incompetent or 
dishonest his leaders and all workers. But he himself will 
not lift a finger to help anyone. If he is a worker he re- 
doubles his efforts to earn money or acquire food by handi- 
crafts, trading or black marketing. The entrepreneur falls 
into two classes: he who works solely for the purpose of 
keeping himself alive and he who works for profits he can 
bank after the war. 

The man who works for post-war profits operates openly 
as a loan shark or racketeer trading on the cupidity or 
hunger of his fellows. Such men are not peculiar only to 
internment camps. 

The honest worker will stay honest, but he will use 
every honorable means, no matter how desperate or fantas- 
tic, to obtain food. 

When all the chips are down it is the man with the will 
to live, and the ingenuity to use the will, who survives. 
And, in addition to will and ingenuity, he must have some- 
thing else: some call it luck. 

A man I’ll call The Droop was an example of survival 
through blind luck, or the inscrutable designs of Provi- 
dence, call it what you will. He was an Englishman in his 


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fifties who had been invalided by heart disease before the 
war. His chances of surviving even the excitement of the 
Bangka Straits had not been considered good and the odds 
against his surviving the privations of prison camp were 
astronomical. But he did. Throughout internment he did 
not lift a finger to help himself unless no one else would 
lift it for him. He walked out when freedom came, a living 
example of sheer luck. 

But whatever their natures, their characters or their luck, 
hungry men have one thing in common: the continuous 
thought of food. Awake, the hungry man talks about food 
and schemes how to get it. Asleep, he dreams about it. 
When a man is starving, life reduces itself to a never end- 
ing quest for something to eat. All other material things 
are secondary. 

Between a man who is hungry but not yet starving and 
a man who is actually starving there is a distinct difference. 
The hungry man begrudges the scraps the cat must eat to 
live. The starving man eats the cat. The hungry man curses 
the rats which plague him. The starving man eats the rats. 
The hungry man wishes he could eat leaves. The starving 
man does eat them. 

Not every one in Muntok Prison, of course, was starving. 
Just as in any famine-ridden land there are those who have 
plenty, and if not plenty at least enough, in prison there 
were those who somehow managed to supplement their 
diets. Kitchen staff men were the best nourished. They 
were well padded and in no danger of beri-beri. Next in 
order of nourishment came successful black market op- 
erators and their more prosperous customers. Some black 
marketeers and kitchen workers actually grew fat. Members 
of the working parties whose jobs took them outside the 
jail to cut wood or tend gardens frequently were able to 
trade with natives who hid in nearby shrubbery, or with 
Indonesian guards who were not averse to supplementing 
their meager salaries with a quick profit. 


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The friendly Javanese police who guarded us in Palem- 
bang were replaced in Bangka by Indonesians of various 
races, mostly Sumatra Malays. They were volunteer soldiers, 
members of a Nippon-recruited “People’s Army,” known 
by the Japanese designation of Haiho. Many of them 
were thugs openly hostile to whites but nearly all of them 
were susceptible to bribery. Every shift of guards had 
a few Japanese soldiers in it but the Japanese could not 
be everywhere at once. 

A standard and strictly legal source of extra nourishment 
was given as payment for the heavy jobs that had to be 
done to keep things going. The time came when it was 
impossible to maintain our self-run jail facilities — cooking, 
cleaning, nursing, wood cutting, coffin carrying, grave dig- 
ging— without giving extra food to workers so that they 
would have the strength to carry on. Therefore, men doing 
certain jobs were allotted “calories”— loo grams of food 
more per day than the rank and file of non-workers. The 
necessary amount was deducted from camp rations. How- 
ever, “calories” did not guarantee a man sufficient strength 
to carry on. If he burned up more energy than he could 
replenish, he dropped out of the working party. 

In my diary is the comment: 

“Truly, as a man told the Camp Committee today, only 
those fortunate enough to get extra food in one way or 
another will walk out of here when freedom comes. So it 
is understandable why men, after they have eaten, lick their 
plates like dogs.” 

Luckily for me, the period of acute food shortage did 
not begin until I had recovered from the bout with cerebral 
malaria and had returned to work. Doc West’s gifts, the 
extras from other friends and the small reserve I had saved 
from better days against such an emergency, put me back 
on my feet. Another important factor was that by nature I 
am thin and therefore did not have so much to lose when 
I lost, or so much to put back when I recovered. 


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Rice was the backbone of our diet— our bread and meat. 
The other staple was a potato-like vegetable known as ubi 
kayu: that’s Malay for wood root, and a singularly descrip- 
tive name. It is the Malaya and East Indies variety of the 
tropical South American plant known variously as manioc 
or cassava. Tapioca is one of its many by-products. Ubi 
kayu is an edible tuber below ground and a long stemmed, 
half-shrubby plant above. We ate not only the root but 
the leaves. Dutch doctors said the topmost cluster of leaves 
contained Vitamin B. Why only the topmost and not the 
others is one of Mother Nature’s mysteries. The leaves must 
be well boiled in order to be chewed successfully. The root 
is a pure starch and has two layers of skin, the outer layer 
being poisonous— secreting hydrocyanic acid. 

By March, 1944, our daily diet per man had fallen to 130 
grams (4^^ ounces) of rice plus varying amounts (100 to 
300 grams) of ubi root and leaves and a large tablespoon 
of evil smelling fish sauce. Occasionally and irregularly this 
diet was supplemented by bits of dried fish, one per man, 
about the size of a domino, and infinitesimal amounts of 
maize, green beans or palm oil. Fish sauce was made for 
two reasons: there was too little to serve any other way and 
the fish had been dead so long that boiling and spicing with 
pepper was necessary to make them palatable. Hungry as we 
were, many men, including myself, could not stomach the 
sauce. These rations were divided into two or three 
meals a day, depending on the amount of ubi kayu avail- 
able. 

Breakfast was an ubi kayu porridge known as ongel- 
ongel, a name which tickled my fancy because it so well 
described its substance and the sensation of eating it. Ongel- 
ongel was a tasteless, grey-white, transparent liquid when 
hot; cold, it hardened to a rubbery gelatin. Cold ongel- 
ongel looked so much like a poultice I decided to try it as 
such on the festered hands of a Frenchman named Albert. 
It worked. After two days I removed the poultice by dissolv- 


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190 

ing in warm water. Albert's hands were white as a fish’s 
belly but the blisters had been drawn. 

Unfortunately, ongel-ongel was too scarce a food com- 
modity to be used on other blister patients, and even had 
it been plentiful I doubt that it would have proved prac- 
tical on our most annoying blister areas— Palembang Bot- 
toms. Hot water remained the universal remedy. So large 
did the hot bath trade become that Shell craftsmen built 
a special boiler for the hospital. Two oil drillers ran it, 
Nick Koot who made the containers in which I buried 
Camp News, and Peter de Groot, a barrel-chested husky 
who spoke seven languages and coaxed the boiler fire in all 
of them. They constructed a sitz bath by cutting a gaso- 
line tank in half and beveling the edges. Customers were 
handled with assembly-line precision; twenty minutes per 
patient and thirty or forty patients per shift. Reserved 
seats only. 

Toward the end of March Peanut announced that he 
had wonderful news for us. The military would take back 
control of prison camps April 1st. 

“You will receive more and better food,” he said. “I am 
happy for you.” 

As a sign of his happiness he issued his most memorable 
communique. It said American forces had turned the 
Marshall Islands into a vast “floating airdrome” and that 
the Pacific war would end in April, 1945, just one year 
more. 

The promised ration improvement did not materialize 
under military administration; but we were given monthly 
stipends of one and one half and later four guilders per 
man per month. The entire amount was put into the 
kitchen fund but there was little the Chinese contractor 
could buy. 

Every ounce of incoming food, both Japanese issued 
and contractor purchased, had been weighed on our kitchen 
scales to check both on Japanese promises and the con- 


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tractor’s honesty. The new commandant confiscated the 
scales, saying, “The Japanese army is honest. We give full 
weight as promised. And if we do not give full weight the 
reason is because there is not enough to be given.” 

The commandant amazed us April 27, 1944, by including 
us in a Japanese celebration of Emperor Hirohito’s birth- 
day. Every prisoner received two cookies, one banana and 
two ounces of arak, a raw alcoholic drink. He further 
cheered us by announcing that rations would be increased 
in May and that our hospital would be enlarged by being 
moved next door into the building that had been a coolie 
quarantine depot for the Bangka Tin Winning Company. 
The hospital would occupy one wing of the building and 
the other wing would be used to house 250 prisoners and 
reduce crowding in the jail. 

The hospital was moved, rations did increase but only 
for two weeks; and instead of two hundred prisoners being 
transferred to the Tin Winning building’s other wing, two 
hundred new prisoners arrived. The newcomers were pale 
as death, unbelievably emaciated and, by the alacrity with 
which they obeyed, even anticipating orders, we could 
tell they had been well broken. For two years they had 
been jammed into locked cells of the jail at Pangkal Pinang, 
capital of Bangka Island. They had not been allowed out- 
side their cells even for exercise. Our freedom to move 
around inside the jail and run our own internal affairs 
surprised them. What delighted them most, however, was 
our food. Our food— on which we were starving! 

E. M. C. Aubrey-Scott, 25, a skeleton-thin Englishman 
who was brought directly into hospital, began to cry when 
he received his first meal in Muntok prison. 

“This is heaven,” he said over and over in a choking 
voice. 

“What’s the matter?” I asked him. 

“This food,” he said, as the tears came. “It’s so wonder- 
ful. You cook it yourselves.” 


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In Pangkal Pinang jail the food, already cooked and little 
more than slop, had been supplied by a piratical Indonesian 
contractor. Pangkal Pinang Jail had been run entirely by 
Indonesians who, judging from tales told of them, were 
much worse than Japanese. 

Despite the privations they suffered, however, Pangkal 
Pinangers were free from disease, except for a few pellagra 
cases like Aubrey-Scott. Malaria, severe beri-beri and dysen- 
tery had not yet visited them. But Doc West said it would 
not be long. 

“They are in such poor condition," he said, “that they’ll 
go quickly when they get our dysentery and malaria." 

Prophetic words. Within six months half of them were 
dead. 

But how desperately they fought to keep alive! Their 
efforts were refleeted immediately by that barometer of 
desperation, rodent priees. 

The priee of eooking-rats, whieh had been retailing at 
one to two guilders, soared to five. They were hard to cateh. 
Miee went to two and one half guilders eaeh. A member of 
the British eommittee, and not a Pangkal Pinanger, who 
had a standing offer of one guilder for a rat and fifty cents 
for a mouse, was indignant when the price zoomed to five 
and 2.50 respectively. 

One of the Pangkal Pinang men uncovered a nest of 
newborn mice. 

“How much will you give me for them?" he asked the 
Britisher. 

“Two guilders and they aren’t worth that, they’re so 
small." 

“Three," demanded the salesman. 

They compromised at two and one half. The buyer ate 
them raw because, he explained, “they are too small to 
cook. They’d disintegrate." 

Bats were numerous when the Pangkal Pinangers arrived. 


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193 

but their numbers rapidly dwindled as hunters stalked 
them day and night with homemade butterfly nets. 

Ants, red or black but red and fat preferred, became a 
source of grease to flavor rice. I never tasted them myself 
but gourmands who caught and fried them said they were 
not bad. The chief selling point of fried ants was that 
grease of any kind was nourishment. 

The Tin Winning building was a structure shaped like a 
block U. Between the wings of the U was a rectangular 
soncrete platform called a pendopo, about 150 feet long 
and one third as wide. It was roofed but open on the sides. 
In prewar days it had served, probably, as an open air din- 
ing hall. On either side of the pendopo was a strip of grass; 
on the open end of the U was an area of weeds, tall grass 
and a few trees, the whole enclosed by a barbed wire fence 
and a thick hedge. 

Pangkal Pinangers quickly combed the weed grown plot 
for grubs. When the grubs were gone they plucked the 
grass and weeds and tree leaves and boiled them. Nor were 
Pangkal Pinangers the only ones. British planters from 
Malaya and Dutch burghers from Palembang followed 
suit. 

The dogs that had precipitated an election crisis in Pa- 
lembang would have been among the first things into cook- 
ing pots had they been around after the ongel-ongel days 
began. But they had been killed and buried shortly after 
arriving in Muntok Prison because they no longer could 
be fed and death was more merciful than starvation. 

Mehitabel the cat and her offspring, on whom we had 
lavished our pork fat, had been allowed to live only because 
they could exist on rats. But they did not live long after the 
Pangkal Pinangers arrived. A cleaning gang found their 
heads and hides in a septic tank. Two dogs and a monkey 
which somehow got into the yard were next. 

A hospital ward attendant told me that on his shift one 


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day he caught two patients in the lavatory eating 
maggots. 

‘‘Holy Mackerel,” I said, “we’d better guard the mortu- 
ary at night or they’ll be gnawing on the corpses.” 

Such a strange glint suddenly appeared in his eyes that 
I thought about it for days afterwards. That man, I thought, 
was up to something. 

Long afterward, when I no longer worked in the hospital, 
I learned what it was. He told me himself. Whenever a 
man died during his shift he inspected the dead man’s 
mouth for gold teeth or gold fillings. If there were any he 
removed the teeth. 

“I got a kilo of rice from a Haiho for each gold tooth,” 
he said, “and smaller amounts, depending on the size, for 
a filling. 

“The teeth weren’t hard to pull out. You know, I 
noticed that the gums of most men became very soft and 
their teeth got loose when they died of beri-beri. And if 
they weren’t loose I used a pair of pliers. ITie difficult part 
was doing it unobserved.” 

He laughed ruefully. 

“Sounds terrible to say I pulled dead men’s teeth, doesn’t 
it? But that wasn’t as bad as eating maggots.” 

I agreed that it was not. 

Bats, rats, grubs, ants and maggots were protein and men 
were dying for lack of protein. A man’s muscles are protein. 
If the body can’t get protein any other way it feeds on the 
muscles until none are left and a man looks like the living 
skeleton in a circus side show. 

The mind deteriorates too. Lack of protein affects the 
brain. Memory suffers, the power of concentration goes. 
Study becomes more and more difficult and finally is 
abandoned. A deadly lassitude lays hold of men. They cease 
to care about anything, even about eating. If friends do 
not snap them out of their inertia they simply disintegrate 
and die. When an internee’s mind went his body soon fol- 


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lowed. Fortunately, very few serious mental cases developed. 
We all became a little warped, I think, before the end, but 
only a small number completely lost their minds. And 
those few soon died. The body seems to reach a certain 
stage beyond which only the will power to survive will 
keep it alive. 

Max Breuer, 34-year'Old dark-skinned Indo-European 
policeman, whom we had written off as a chronic malaria 
case doomed for the beri-beri ward, was an example of the 
will to live conquering a body seemingly scheduled to die. 
For months he lay in the fever ward, apathetic between 
his spells of shivering and sweating. His malaria was not 
severe, like cerebral, but was chronic and slowly wearing 
him down. Something, I don't know what, snapped him 
out of his apathy. He began to fight. He asked Doc West 
to move him out of the hospital proper to what we called 
the Old Men's Ward, in the opposite wing of the Tin Win- 
ning building. Tliere, convalescing patients and old men 
were more or less on their own but still got hospital 
food. 

Every morning Max dragged himself out to the weed lot 
and picked and boiled a mess of “greens." Soon he was 
cooking not only for himself but for others and charging 
for the services. With the money, he bought black market 
condiments to flavor his “greens," and made more money 
to buy more condiments plus food for himself. His body 
grew stronger. By nature he was a heavy-set, muscular fel- 
low. His wasted frame began to fill out. He left the Old 
Men's Ward and moved into one of the Pangkal Pinang 
cells where death had thinned the population so there was 
plenty of room. In time Max became a fat black-market 
operator because he had the guts and the will, plus the 
ingenuity. 

Wembley-Smythe had the guts and the will but not the 
ingenuity'. When Beissel lost his job as chief cook— because 
the oil men got control and ousted him— Wembley-Smythe 


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lost his job too. He was too clumsy for any but kind hearted 
Beissel to keep on the staff. 

Cut off from calories he had received as a kitchen worker 
and congenitally unable to do anything to help himself, he 
had to depend entirely on camp rations. They were not 
enough to give his body the strength to resist chronic 
malaria and septic sores. He began to fade. The future 
looked grim for Wembley-Smythe, with whom I had de- 
bated immortality after the moonlight thunderstorm. 

Another fatal weakness in prison camp was an inordinate 
appetite for sweets or fancy things— for dessert instead of the 
main course. Numbers of men with such appetites suc- 
cumbed by their own folly. 

They sold their rice, the bulk of our diet, in order to buy 
tastier morsels on the black market: bits of fish, minuscule 
prawns, palm sugar, bean curd cakes or even fried ubi. 
Such tidbits, they said, satisfied their hunger more than 
rice. Others sold their rice in order to buy tobacco. Tobacco 
was solace for empty stomachs. It soothed nerves rasped by 
confined living. It helped bridge the aching gap between 
6:30 A.M. porridge and mid-afternoon rice. But it was not 
food. And those who sold their rice to buy tobacco or other 
luxuries inevitably ended in the beri-beri ward. 

Disposal of dead men’s effects became a major problem. 
The hospital benefited by getting their rags for bandages 
but disposition of more useful articles and money caused 
endless bickering and quarrels among neighbors of the de- 
ceased. Ghoulish “friends” frequently could not wait for 
a man to die before they began looting his possessions. A 
partial solution to the problem was obtained by having all 
internees fill in brief, prepared forms, appointing executors 
of their jail estates. Since most men died in hospital we be- 
came watchdogs of their effects, fending off the efforts of 
executors or would-be executors to get possession of their 
belongings before they were turned over to the Camp Corn- 


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mittee which ‘"probated” the estates according to the 
wills. 

As theft and chiseling became more frequent the Camp 
Committee drafted a system of laws and penalties and estab- 
lished our own private jail within our prison to punish 
offenders. The jail was the room in which we had performed 
the secret autopsy. Men caught stealing food, clothing or 
other things were locked in it for various periods. Chiselers 
were those men who by various stratagems, such as appear- 
ing twice in a food queue, got more than they were entitled 
to; or who shirked compulsory corvee when they were not 
sick. They were penalized by being deprived of rations in 
varying amounts for varying times, depending on the severity 
of their oflfense. 

Weaklings and dolts, ghouls and thieves, fools and mere 
good hearted bunglers were more conspicuous than men 
who lived or died quietly but gallantly; nevertheless, we 
had our share of brave and self sacrificing men, such as the 
father who every day gave part of his food to his sons. On 
the principle they needed it just as much, probably more, 
boys under sixteen were given extra calories, the same as 
workers. So the particular Dutch father I refer to was not 
morally or otherwise obliged to give away a single fraction 
of his food to his sons. But he did regularly and is num- 
bered among the dead. 

There was a kongsie of four men, three of whom fell ill. 
Two lay side by side in hospital in the beri-beri ward and 
the third lay in his block with chronic malaria. The fourth 
man, a slender, middle-aged Englishman who looked as 
though a strong wind would blow him away, worked des- 
perately to save them. By buying and selling, working and 
scheming he managed every day to get something extra for 
his friends. It looked for a while as if he would save all three 
but the beri-beri victims finally died. When they died the 
friend was able to concentrate all his efforts on the chronic 


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teen brothers of the Bangka mission headed by Monsignor 
Bouma. The priests were of the same order to which Father 
Bakker belonged, the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of 
Jesus and Mary, famous for an illustrious member known 
to the world as Father Damien of Molokai, the Hawaiian 
leper colony. 

I think that something of the fire that burned in the heart 
of Father Damien burned also in the heart of Father Bak- 
ker. Although he never said a word it was obvious from his 
actions that Father Bakker dedicated himself to the task of 
saving his fellow missionaries, especially Monsignor Bouma, 
from the beri-beri ward. 

Bishop Mekkelholt did for the Bangka missionaries what 
he could but he had his hands full trying to keep his own 
priests and brothers from Sumatra alive. The Bangka' clergy 
had to depend mostly on themselves. 

So Father Bakker cooked and scrubbed, bought and sold. 
One of his business enterprises was selling cigarets rolled in 
paper instead of nipa leaves. The papers were torn from 
breviaries. Every bit of extra food he earned went to feed 
the sick. He was burning himself out. But instead of reduc- 
ing his self-imposed tasks of helping his friends, in order 
to help himself, he merely cut down on his personal pleas- 
ures, such as studying and composing, and devoted the 
time saved to assisting his helpless companions. 

They were helpless in two ways. The Pangkal Pinang 
Jail had sapped their vitality. And they did not have the 
necessary ingenuity. Unlike the Sumatra missionaries, Mon- 
signor Bouma and most of his men seemed unable to 
cope with the exigencies of black market barter or the 
sheer struggle for survival. Consequently, the task fell on 
the shoulders of a few practical priests like Father Bakker. 
As the lean months passed the burden proved too much. 
Father Bakker’s limbs swelled; his feet and hands began 
to bear the familiar lesions of malnutritional disease. Malaria 


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bouts increased in frequency. By the end of 1944 he could 
not even direct the remnants of his beloved choir. 

As deaths mounted so did our protests, written and verbal, 
to the Japanese. On June 19th Captain Seki, commander of 
all south Sumatra internee affairs, moved his headquarters 
to Muntok and replied in person to our pleas. Every man 
who could walk— there were 910 in prison then and about 
200 too sick to attend— stood at attention in the long open 
air pendopo to hear Seki speak. His words were translated 
into Malay by a Japanese interpreter who was the most 
hated man in Muntok. 

Seki said our prospects were for more work and less food. 
We must grow our own food or starve. No more rice would 
be imported from the Sumatra mainland. Rations would 
be reduced fifteen per cent immediately. We must furnish 
200 more men for cultivating outside gardens — and the 
gardeners would get no extra nourishment for their efforts. 

Seki said he was sorry for the old men and the sick but 
that Japan had not started the war. Bangka was a war theater 
with the imminent possibility of action. Japanese soldiers 
must come first in food consideration. He concluded his 
talk by saying, 

“Please do not get sick, so that when the war ends you 
can all go home.” 

Derisively we laughed and hooted. Seki looked at the in- 
terpreter and the interpreter exploded into a tirade of abuse 
for our insult to the captain. 

The fifteen per cent reduction made it impossible for our 
kitchen crew to stretch rations into three meals a day. There- 
after we had only two and no more ongel-ongel. 

July 31st the Camp Committee handed another letter 
to Seki: 

“It is now no longer a case of the older and weaker men 
dying through under-nourishment. Young men in their 


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twenties who but recently went out to work in the vegetable 
gardens at your request are dying, after a brief illness, owing 
to lack of resistance as a result of under-nourishment. We 
state plainly that, if our food supply is not quickly im- 
proved, the health of the camp will be completely under- 
mined and the internees will succumb to fatal illnesses in 
increasing numbers. And this with the full knowledge of 
Nippon authorities, whose attention we have repeatedly 
drawn to the seriousness of our situation. 

“We fully understand that the war effort is of primary 
importance in your eyes. We realize that the food situation 
may be diEcult. But we can not understand that a respon- 
sible Japanese government and the Japanese Military Au- 
thorities will stand by idly while the death rate amongst 
internees increases at such an alarming rate as has been the 
case here. 

“Our letter addressed to you and dated July 8th has re- 
mained unanswered. The situation is serious. Only quick 
and radical improvement of our food supply will prevent 
disastrous consequences. We rely upon you, as the officer 
in charge of this internment camp, to realize the gravity of 
the situation and to take all steps in your power to forestall 
a catastrophe.” 

Seki did nothing to forestall it. Rather did he worsen 
matters by moving the Women’s Camp from Palembang to 
Muntok, thereby placing an added strain on Bangka Island’s 
dwindling food supplies. 


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The Beri-Beri Song 


O N A bright June morning in 1944 ^ heard 
the weird wailing that came to be known as the 
beri-beri song. None who sang it lived to dis- 
close the reason but we had an uncanny feeling the 
singers were conscious of their act. Why they did it remains 
a mystery, the answer to which lies buried in rows of graves 
beneath the pepper trees of Bangka Island. 

Beri-beri patients lay in a ward identical with others in 
the prison hospital. Concrete platforms forty feet long and 
eight feet wide lined either side of the room, with a narrow 
walk between. The same number of men lay shoulder to 
shoulder on the benches which sloped slightly from the 
wall downward to the aisle. A small ledge ran along the foot 
of the shelves and kept things from sliding off onto the 
floor. Liquid suppurating from pores of swollen victims ran 
in little rivulets down the slope and collected along the 
ledge. 

Not all patients were filled with liquid. Many were little 
more than skeletons. Two types of the disease were most 
common in Muntok: hydropic, or “wet,” wherein victims 
filled with water, and atropic, or “dry,” wherein they dried 
out and shriveled up like angleworms in the sun. Why some 
shriveled and others swelled I don't know. Both types started 
the same way. First symptoms appeared four months after 
our ongel-ongel diet began. And the first deaths were in 
May, one month after initial symptoms. 

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Beri-beri is a malnutritional scourge caused primarily by 
lack of Vitamin B in the diet. Protein deficiency is a sec- 
ondary cause. First symptoms usually are swelling— caused 
by oedema— of the feet, numbness of certain areas of the 
legs and a peculiar walk: the victim “slapping" the ground 
with his feet and staggering as though intoxicated. The 
swollen flesh is flaccid and, if squeezed, fingerprints remain 
as though pressed into wet clay. As the disease progresses, 
serous fluid fills and expands tissues of the entire body and, 
in a cold, steady stream, sweats through distended pores. 
The peritoneal and pleural cavities fill and the victim 
literally drowns in his own juice. 

The wet type is deadlier than the dry. I can remember 
no hydropic case recovering after having reached an ad- 
vanced stage, whereas there were several recoveries from the 
advanced atropic state. 

Response to proper and early treatment is remarkably fast. 
In Muntok, proper treatment meant food containing Vita- 
min B and protein. The green bean known as kachang ijau 
is fabulously rich in Vitamin B and when obtainable in 
sufficient quantity worked unbelievably rapid cures. If the 
patient could digest them the beans were eaten raw after 
being soaked overnight; then the water was drained off and 
the beans were allowed to stand another twelve to twenty- 
four hours, until they began to sprout. At that point, due to 
some internal chemical change, the bean was richest in 
Vitamin B content. As the bean sprouted the Vitamin B 
content decreased and Vitamin C was built up. Patients 
suffering skin lesions caused by Vitamin C shortage were 
fed well-sprouted beans. 

Kachang ijau's magic was demonstrated on our first two 
cases of pronounced oedema: an Englishman named Grixoni 
and a Dutch Catholic brother. They expanded like balloons. 
Within one week Grixoni’s weight shot up 19.8 pounds and 
the Brother's 26.4, due entirely to water in the tissues. Doc 
West obtained enough kachang ijau, through a Japanese 


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guard and the black market, to feed them large amounts. In 
a few days the swelling began to subside. In two weeks they 
were completely “deflated.” The Brother survived intern- 
ment and Grixoni died, but months later and of malaria 
and dysentery, not beri-beri. 

Men who lay in the Muntok beri-beri ward were those for 
whom there was not enough kachang ijau and who conse- 
quently could not be “deflated” like Grixoni and the 
Brother. 

If they lay there long enough they developed one, or two 
or sometimes all three painful complications: creeping bed 
sores, septic legs or beri-beri blisters. The septic legs began 
as deep ulcers, usually below the knee, and kept expanding, 
sometimes completely encircling the leg. Our only treat- 
ment was soaking in hot water, cutting away dead tissue 
and applying wet dressings. Maggots invariably invaded 
those particular wounds and assisted in the scissoring proc- 
ess. Doctors said the maggots actually were beneficial but 
patients complained of pain and itching. 

The blisters usually occurred on thighs grotesquely swol- 
len by oedema. The blisters were enormous things, tense 
with serum and sometimes extending from knee to groin. 
They erupted with astonishing suddenness. Puncturing and 
draining alleviated pain but the victim was doomed because 
flesh beneath the blisters was dead. Medically the condition 
is known as “hydropic necrosis of subcutaneous tissues.” 
Both septic and blistered legs invariably were fatal, death 
resulting from general toxemia. 

The first high-pitched, long drawn notes of the beri-beri 
song awakened me one morning before roll call. They were 
a song-like wail such as I imagined keening might be. 
Curiosity impelled me to rise, slip my toes into a pair of 
sandals and explore along the hospital veranda, tracing the 
noise to its source. One after another I passed the two 
fever wards, the beri-beri ward, the septic ward and came 


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to the dysentery ward. The noise then sounded behind me. 
I had overshot the source. Turning back to the septic ward 
I went in, walked down the aisle and joined the attendant 
who was leaning over a 40-year-old rubber planter I will 
call Maurice. 

Maurice was not in the beri-beri ward because in addition 
to that disease he was covered with septic sores. He had 
been the “pretty boy" of our community, spending hours 
in finicky cleaning and washing of his person and clothing, 
gazing into a tiny hand mirror and combing and recombing, 
combing and recombing his thinning hair. Now his dandi- 
fied body, from scalp line to toes, was a solid incrustration 
of scabs and pus. He lay flat on his back, his knees drawn 
up so that the soles of his feet rested on the bench. His 
hands were folded over his chest and the fingers picked at 
each other. His eyes were open and peered intently at the 
ceiling, as if trying to discern some dimly seen object above 
him. And he was singing. Not with words, but with a long 
drawn a-a-a-ah which rose and fell in a tune strangely simi- 
lar to “Waltzing Matilda." I stepped up on the bench 
beside him and, squatting down, asked if he wanted any- 
thing. Changing a dressing frequently eased the pain of 
serum filled sores. He rolled his head to look at me but con- 
tinued the wail. Again I asked him, 

“Do you want something?" 

He stopped singing, closed his mouth, opened it as though 
he were about to speak, but did not. While I felt his pulse 
he rolled his head back to his former position, peered at the 
ceiling and resumed the song. 

The sack he used for a blanket had been pushed aside. I 
pulled it back over him and stepped off the bench. The 
attendant wondered aloud if we should call Doc West be- 
cause Maurice was keeping everyone awake. We decided 
not. Roll call soon would sound anyway. I looked around 
the gloomy ward. It was always dim inside because the only 


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windows were at the end next to the door. Here and there 
men were propped up on their elbows, watching. A patient 
requested a light for his nipa straw cigaret. The attendant 
brought him the small night kerosene lamp and lit it. An- 
other man called for a bedpan. The attendant hurried to 
him. I walked out into the open to breathe the clean air of 
dawn and listen to the birds bustling in the durian trees 
beyond the fence. 

The singing grew louder after roll call. Doc West tried 
to quiet him but Maurice would only pause momentarily, 
look at Doc as a blind man looks in the direction of a sound, 
working his lips as if trying to speak, then resume the wail. 
Around seven o'clock the song changed to loud groans and 
cries. We collected our breakfasts of boiled ubi and tried 
not to hear Maurice while we ate. 

After breakfast I worked as usual in the septic ward 
where Maurice lay next to a rabbit-like little man I'll call 
Bunny. While I was dressing Bunny's sores Maurice sud- 
denly galvanized into action. With a raucous groan which 
set my teeth on edge he slowly rose from the bench to a 
sitting posture. It was as though a corpse on a morgue slab 
had sat up to look around. 

He was in the grip of a violent muscular contraction 
which affected all parts of his body. The cords of his neck 
and throat were taut and distended. His fingers became 
talons reaching for some invisible thing. His lips drew back 
from his teeth in a sardonic, skull-like grin. So widely star- 
ing were his white-socketed eyes that the lids appeared torn 
from them. Wildly he stared at whatever it was for which 
he reached and tried to grasp and convey to his half open 
mouth. I decided he was trying to bring air to his bubbly 
lungs. 

He rolled from side to side, throwing his arms and hands 
over Bunny, then twisting to the other side and trying to 
climb the wall, then rolling back again to half embrace 


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Bunny. It was almost as though he hated Bunny and was 
trying to take the little man with him into some realm of 
nightmare. 

Bunny was too weak to move. He had a hole in his lower 
abdomen where yesterday Doc Boerma had cut into his 
bladder and inserted a drain tube as a desperate expedient 
to lessen his last agonies. Bunny could only plead: 

“Keep him off me. Please.” 

A morphine injection gradually quieted Maurice. His 
writhing decreased to restless twitching, his breathing be- 
came stertorous. An hour later he suddenly became quiet. I 
felt for his pulse. It was not. As I held his wrist Maurice 
relaxed, tension drained from his muscles, his jaw sagged 
as a last exhalation emptied his body of life. 

The following morning I noticed that Bunny paid no 
attention to flies which settled on his face. 

“How are you?” I asked. 

“It’s no use, Mae,” he replied. “I’m finished.” 

Trying to convince him otherwise would have been mock- 
ery. I thanked him for the language lessons he had given 
me before his illness and asked if there was anything he 
wanted done. 

“Will you pray for me?” 

I promised I would. He thought of something else. 

“If I act like Maurice,” he said, “hold my hand. I don’t 
want to go that way.” 

Bunny sang the beri-beri song two mornings later. He was 
spared the convulsions Maurice had experienced. He 
drifted from song into coma while I held his hand. When 
he was past knowing whether or not he was alone I returned 
to work. He died that afternoon. 

Next singer was a man of 29 we called The Gow. He 
burst into a wild, frenetic wail about seven a.m. But, unlike 
the two before him and the scores who followed, we were 
sure The Gow knew what he was doing. 

“Why are you singing?” I asked him. 


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“I have to/’ he said between snatches of the dreadful 
melody. ‘'I have to.” 

That was the nearest we ever came to an answer. Like 
Maurice, The Gow went into a long series of convulsions, 
but unlike Maurice he remained, apparently, aware of his 
actions although powerless to stop them. His lips formed 
the same death’s head grin, his eyelids disappeared behind 
his eyeballs, his body tensed and writhed and twisted. He 
clawed for air. 

Acting on a theory that the wailing and convulsions might 
be caused by an acute shortage of salt in the body. Doc 
put a tube into The Gow and poured a salt solution into 
his stomach. He finally quieted, drifted into the inevitable 
coma and died in the afternoon. As we carried him from 
the ward other men on the bench, who looked as if they 
were going to go in the same way, watched uneasily. 

The fourth song filled hospital rooms the following morn- 
ing. I was talking to a 37-year-old English seaman nick- 
named Flash when he broke into loud wailing. It was like 
watching a man go insane. 

Flash had been shipwrecked and survived wearing noth- 
ing but a pair of shorts. He acquired little else during in- 
ternment. All his possessions were on the bench beside him. 
They totaled four empty tins, two of them rusty; a battered 
enamel plate, a wooden spoon and a metal fork, half of a 
coconut shell, a bottle from which the neck had been 
broken and a half finished dart board. He had worked on 
the dart board intermittently for two years. Flash was a 
fighter but the odds were against him because, like Wemb- 
ley-Smythe, he had not the necessary ingenuity or the luck 
for survival. He was a scrawny fellow when I first met him. 
Now his grotesquely swollen body was wracked by malaria 
and incrusted with ringworm, itch and septic sores. But he 
remained cheerful, frequently smiling and deprecating his 
ills, often apologizing for the '‘trouble” he caused hospital 
attendants. 


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Flash expressed concern for the first time over his condi- 
tion when pains wracked his chest and arms the night after 
The Gow’s death. He asked the night man how sick he was. 
The night man did not have the heart to tell him. When 
the day man came he would not tell him either. Eric and I 
visited Flash before breakfast. We knew he wouldn’t be 
around much longer and we liked him. Eric had just lit a 
cigaret and placed it between Flash’s lips when an abrupt, 
hoarse, involuntary cry wrenched its way from the sick man’s 
throat. 

Flash looked at Eric, then at me. Fear was in his eyes, 
but he said not a word. The cigaret had fallen to the bench. 
Eric picked it up and replaced it between Flash’s lips. Flash 
took a few drags then shuddered violently, dropped the 
cigaret again and cried a second time. The paroxysm passed 
as quickly as it had come. 

‘‘I’m sorry,” said Flash, “I can’t help it.” 

About half past eight I was working nearby when Flash 
again groaned loudly. I asked him if he wanted another 
cigaret. 

“I’d like it if you have one,” he said. 

I walked down to the staflF room, selected a nipa leaf, 
placed a few grains of tobacco on it, rolled it and returned 
to Flash. He smiled his thanks and said, 

“Don’t go away, will you, if . . . if . . 

“Okay, Flash. I’ll stick around.” 

I lit the cigaret and was about to put it between his" lips 
when, as though a switch had been thrown in his brain. 
Flash passed from reason to delirium. He talked nonsense, 
then began to sing. The tune, as with Maurice before, was 
not unlike “Waltzing Matilda.” Convulsions followed. So 
did the shot of morphine> the coma, the stertorous breath- 
ing. 

Because he had asked me not to go away I put a stool on 
the bench beside him, in the space left vacant by Bunny’s 
death, and waited. Other patients glanced apprehensively 


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in our direction. Hospital visitors wandered in and out, 
staring as they passed. Attendants hurried up and down the 
aisle, wielding bedpans. Tommy Thomson, the hospital 
quartermaster, made his rounds taking orders for soya bean 
cake available only to sick men without stomach or intestinal 
troubles. 

Preacher Gillbrook, who had been a lay “interdenomina- 
tional" missionary in North China, came in, said he guessed 
Flash was a Church of England man and intoned a prayer. 
The morning dragged. Tiffin time approached. Flash’s 
breathing was more labored, his pulse weaker. I wondered, 

“Will he die in time for me to eat?" 

Food was served to patients. I’he man who lay next to 
Flash was an English engineer whose swollen limbs had 
more and deeper sores than any man in the ward. He used 
chopsticks to eat his rice because they stretched out his 
meal. Many of us used them because we could eat one grain 
at a time that way and make 1 30 grams last an hour. Each 
time he raised the sticks his elbow grazed Flash’s left shoul- 
der. Flash died at 1:25 p.m. I pulled the sack over his face 
and rose stiffly from the stool. The chopsticks had not 
missed a beat. 

I walked into the staff room just as Eric returned from 
the food serving line carrying his plate and mine. Flash had 
died in time for me to eat. 

After dinner we lifted Flash’s body onto a stretcher and 
carried it into the bamboo and palm shed built beside the 
hospital for a mortuary. An empty box was waiting. We put 
Flash in and nailed down the lid. The coffin gang slung 
ropes around each end of the box, then, like Chinese coolies, 
looped them over carrying poles which rested on their 
shoulders, toted the coffin to the front gate and lowered it 
to the ground. 

Father Bakker, with the remnants of his choir, was wait- 
ing at the gate. He raised his baton. The choir began “Abide 
with Me." When the song ended, the pallbearers, three to 


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each side, lifted the coffin onto their shoulders and were 
counted through the gate. Behind came six alternate pall- 
bearers, including Eric and myself. We traded off every 
quarter of a mile. Two guards carrying bayoneted rifles led 
the procession, two more brought up the rear. The road 
wound through a green, park-like section of Muntok. Men 
usually liked to go on funerals because of the walk. 

The cemetery, an old one laid out by the Dutch, who 
had colonized Bangka and developed the pepper plantations 
and tin deposits, had been expanded for internees and was 
growing rapidly. Mounds of red laterite marked the resting 
places of prisoners who had preceded Flash. Six open graves 
waited for succeeding guests. 

We lowered the coffin into the first of the four foot deep 
holes. British Leader Hammet read Church of England 
burial services. When he had finished he reached down, 
picked up a handful of red soil and tossed it onto the coffin, 
saying, 

“Remember, man, that thou art dust and unto dust thou 
shalt return." 

Following suit, we each stooped, picked up some earth 
and cast it. It struck the wood with a rattling, hollow 
sound. The Japanese guards saluted. We filled the hole. 
Hammet shoved the end of a wooden cross into the soft 
dirt. Painted in black letters on the cross were Flash's name 
and the date. Because the new commandant had not con- 
tinued Peanut's custom of providing flowers for funerals, 
we broke a few leafy stems from shrubs which grew along 
the cemetery edge, laid them on the grave and departed. 

Back in jail I lay down to rest. Voices from the ward next 
door indicated Doc West was making his late rounds. My 
eyes closed and my ears followed him from patient to 
patient, anticipating his arrival beside old De Groot, a pen- 
sioned colonial soldier and, at 73, the oldest man in prison. 
De Groot was one of the few men who spoke Malay so 
slowly and clearly I could understand every word. He enunci- 


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215 

ated deliberately, as if he were afraid he might be misunder- 
stood. Since Doc could speak no Dutch and De Groot no 
English, they conversed in Malay. 

I heard Doc greet De Groot, and De Groot’s reply. 
Calmly the old man announced that his days were ended 
and that he was about to die. Only persons who know 
Malay will appreciate the drama of what De Groot said in 
his simple, colloquial Malay of the market place. For those 
few, here are De Groot’s words. 

‘'Selamat, tuan Doktor. Suda habis. Saya orang mati. 
Terima kasi banyak.” 

Translated literally: 

“Greetings, Mister Doctor. It is finished. I am a dead 
man. Thank you very much.” 

He was grateful for the Doc’s attention and he was fin- 
ished. By morning his voice had risen in the beri-beri song. 
Then went the engineer whose chopsticks had not missed a 
beat; and most of those who had watched so apprehensively 
as Maurice, Bunny, The Gow and Flash were carried out. 
Day after day, through June, July, August and September, 
the song continued. Then it ceased as abruptly as it had be- 
gun. Men still died of beri-beri but more quietly, more con- 
veniently. During November the song resumed again for a 
cycle of perhaps ten deaths. After that it was not heard 
again. 


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T he tomb-like quiet of Muntok Prison yard dur- 
ing the last quarter of 1944 was broken only by 
bells signaling roll call, food, funerals or work and 
by the shuffling footsteps of men answering those sum- 
monses. The only other sound was an undertone of discord 
that, as a deceptive bed of ashes erupts to release buried 
flames and gases, sporadically burst into bitter, violent in- 
ternecine quarrels. 

The petty hates of Barracks Camp were distilled in Mun- 
tok Prison until they attained proportions of open warfare. 
Morale was cracking. As a community we were disintegrat- 
ing. We had forgotten how to play or study or relax. Worst 
of all, we had forgotten how to laugh. In the struggle for 
self-preservation too many men adopted the attitude of sur- 
vival at any cost and the devil or the grave take the hind- 
most. 

Palembang Jail and Barracks Camp had bustled with 
activities. When men were not working or studying or play- 
ing cards or chess they were out sunning themselves. The 
sun had been a friend in those days. Now it was an enemy 
to be avoided, to be hidden from in gloomy cells. And, as 
more and more men stayed in their cells around the clock, 
busy only with their thoughts, they became morbid, lost 
hope, sank into staring apathy. 

For such as they, years passed between one meal and the 
next, and months were centuries. I often wondered why so 

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few of them lost their minds. Maybe they adopted the tech- 
nique of a life termer I interviewed once in an American 
penitentiary. He said that while in solitary confinement he 
kept his sanity by learning how to make his mind a blank. 
My own technique for bridging the abyss between meals 
and forgetting the calendar was keeping busy. It worked 
successfully. Also, my hopes of escaping never abated. They 
sound so fantastic now, those schemes and plans and dreams 
of escape, that I prefer not to record them. Readers might 
think I was either balmy or an opium smoker. Fantastic as 
they were, however, they helped keep up my spirits. I always 
figured it was going to be a long war and that prisoner mor- 
tality rates would be astronomical but I also always reckoned 
I would be neither among the dead nor among those living 
skeletons present when liberation came. I banked on either 
being repatriated among newspaper men and others ex- 
changed between Japan and the United States, or on escap- 
ing to India or New Guinea. Louhenapessie, the smuggler, 
brought me down to earth one day when we were discussing 
how best to reach New Guinea. 

“You're too thin now," he said. “You must get fatter. 
You're not strong enough to escape." 

Bitter truth. The time to escape is in the beginning when 
muscles are still pliable and responsive to extraordinary 
calls upon them. The jungle and the sea are not for weak- 
lings. And daily I was growing weaker. But, somehow, I felt 
sure, I would regain my strength. 

I think there is in the world only one thing as buoyant 
as love; and that is hope. Between keeping busy and hoping, 
time flew. 

My little world of sores and bandages, scissoring and hot 
baths, kept me so occupied I seldom walked the corridor 
from hospital to prison yard. When I did, it was like visit- 
ing a ghost camp. Except when a bell rang the yard was 
deserted. Gravel crunched with startling loudness under 
foot. The air of desolation was transformed somewhat on 


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walking from the yard into a cell full of men. That was like 
stepping into a meeting of conspirators. Usually they were 
plotting how to overthrow the Camp Committee or certain 
members of it. And, if a sudden silence greeted me as I 
entered, it meant they had been talking about the hospital 
and what a graft hospital workers had. But the talkers them- 
selves would not volunteer to nurse the sick. They only 
talked and bellyached. They simply would not labor in the 
septic and dysentery wards where there was danger of infec- 
tion and nursing tasks frequently were stomach turning. 
Arguments that '‘you may be next and have no one to nurse 
y^ou" were of no avail. They would volunteer for two jobs 
only: the diet kitchen and quartermaster department where 
Doc West had put men of integrity. No one grew fat in the 
hospital diet kitchen or in the quartermaster depart- 
ment. 

Other prison institutions besides the hospital were under 
fire. An oil power-play in March had squeezed Beissel from 
the kitchen as chief cook. Just as Van der Vliet had been 
ousted from leadership in Barracks Camp ostensibly, but 
not really, because of a quarrel over dogs, so Beissel’s re- 
moval was attributed to a reason equally as inane. He was 
accused of allowing kitchen workers to drink too much 
coffee. 

The same group of men tried a squeeze play on the hos- 
pital, claiming that if they got control they would staff it 
adequately. However, when asked to guarantee they would 
man the septic and dysentery wards they hedged. West and 
his staff fought back. Bishop Mekkelholt stepped into the 
breach with a concrete offer of help: fifteen priests and 
brothers to man the septic and dysentery wards. He made 
one stipulation, that his missionaries do the whole job and 
not just alternate shifts. West gladly accepted. It cost the 
clergy heavily in sickness but when one dropped out another 
took his place. The opposition failed to gain control. The 
first severe storm had been weathered. When the next came. 


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unfortunately. Doc West was not at the helm to pilot us 
through. 

The Japanese took Doc West from us in September and 
sent him to a military camp in Palembang. Hospital condi- 
tions became chaotic after he had gone and even his enemies 
realized that West had been more than a medical practi- 
tioner. He had been a leader and power for good. He had 
the knack of cheering patients and giving them courage 
even though he could not give them medicine. And he was 
impartial. All patients got equal treatment. Brusque he had 
been and high handed, but there was no doubt in any one’s 
mind what he represented. He kept the hospital from be- 
coming a political football or a factional monopoly. His 
sharp tongue and blunt manner made enemies but after he 
left most of them wished he was back. 

In our travail we needed leaders who could command 
the confidence of men of diverse blood, social strata and 
nationalities; leaders who could rise above factional rivalries 
of government, oil and business, with their differing ideas 
of who should be in control and how. Leaders who could be 
trusted by both the Haves and Have Nots, as well as by 
European and Eurasian. 

Although the hospital fight was settled temporarily, its 
ramifications were felt in an election which put Oosten 
into leadership of the camp. Oranje retired from chairman- 
ship of the Camp Committee and Oosten took his place. 
His tenure was a stormy one. Trouble multiplied from the 
day he took office. Again the hospital was at the core of it. 

Although they deprived us of Doc West, the Japanese 
brought us three more doctors, making six in prison, all 
Dutch. One of the newcomers, P. E. Lentze, was named 
head of the hospital because in pre-war days he had been 
chief surgeon of the Bangka Tin, in whose bailiwick we now 
lived. Lentze was a dark skinned Indo-European of ability 
and integrity and every inch a doctor and a gentleman, but 
he was uiiable to cope with the kind of dogfight in which 


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218 BY EASTERN WINDOWS 

he found himself from the first day he entered Muntok 
Prison. 

I was scouting around the prison one afternoon trying to 
find a man to join the hospital dressing staff. A Shell engi- 
neer named E. E. de Bruyn told me humorously. 

“If only we had enough healthy internees so that we could 
fire from camp jobs all but two types of men, there would 
be peace around here.” 

“Proceed,” I said, “I’m listening.” 

“There are four kinds of men,” began De Bruyn. “Num- 
ber one is bright and active, number two is bright and lazy, 
number three is dumb and active and number four is dumb 
and lazy. 

“The bright and active man must be fired from anv 
smooth running organization because he is too bright and 
too active for harmony. The dumb and active man also 
must be fired because he causes too much trouble. Those 
active men also are hard to live with. The bright one is 
frustrated by the world’s inertia and the dumb one is always 
in hot water. 

“The men to keep in the organization are the lazy ones, 
both bright and stupid— the bright and lazy because the 
little he does he does well, and the stupid and lazy because 
he does only what he is told. And the lazy men are easy to 
live with, the bright one because he has a sense of humor 
and no desire to reform the world, and the stupid one be- 
cause, ignorance being bliss, he is happy.” 

Grinning, I returned to work, having forgotten for a little 
while how tough life was getting. I was among those wear- 
ing out. The dressing job daily grew more arduous. I had 
a staff of five assistants including my American partner 
Eric and Mike Treurniet, who had killed the duck for my 
New Year’s dinner; but seldom were all five on their feet 
simultaneously. Nearly every patient in the hospital needed 
dressing of some kind and the number of severe cases was 
appalling. Night calls were increasingly frequent as more 


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and more beri-beri blisters erupted on swollen legs. The 
pace was getting me. Day and night there was a tight, dull 
pain in my back. Dizzy spells and sudden, cold sweats were 
increasing in frequency. 

One ray of help illumined our black horizon in October 
1944. The 7th of October was one of the happiest days in 
our prison camp history. American Red Cross supplies ar- 
rived. They were pitifully small but they raised our hopes. 

‘'Now they know we ate here," we told each other. “More 
will come." 

More never did come but luckily we could not read the 
future as we divided what was left after our guards first took 
their portion. How much they took we never learned. We 
only knew they smoked American cigarets for days and that 
Van Asbeck reported an ever growing pile of American 
butter and powdered milk tins behind Seki's house. 

Suspicious of hidden messages, the guards opened all 
paper wrapped packages, such as cigarets, and burned the 
paper. They checked tinned goods by opening every can of 
a certain brand of meat paste and removing the contents. 
The paste was turned over to the kitchen and served as 
“Sauce American." The tinned butter and powdered milk 
that did reach us we reserved for the sick and rationed at 
the rate of one spoon of powder and one spoon of butter 
per patient per day while the supply lasted. 

General camp distribution to each individual totaled: 
eighteen cigarets, four ounces of tinned meat— three men 
would divide a twelve ounce tin— one tiny slice of cheese 
and one cup of weak coffee. 

Late in October we received from the Red Cross 12,470 
guilders, in Japanese invasion currency, and another 6,000 
guilders from the Vatican. 

Chairman Oosten invited me, as a representative of 
America, to a meeting of the Camp Committee and made 
a little speech of thanks for the Red Cross goods. 

In the food queue that day Controleur de Raat, who was 


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220 BY EASTERN WINDOWS 

a food server, gave Eric and me a concrete expression of 
gratitude. 

“This is a token of appreciation to America,” he said, 
and put an extra spoonful of boiled cucumbers on each of 
our plates. 

On November i, 1944, De Raat called at the hospital to 
acknowledge he had lost his fifty-guilder bet with me that 
the war would be over by that date. 

“But you'll have to wait until after the war to collect,” 
he said, “Fm broke.” 

Even if he could have paid there was no satisfaction for 
me in winning the bet. Joyfully would I have lost. Four 
funerals a day were not uncommon in November. Nor were 
we able any longer to carry the coffins on our shoulders. A 
cart was constructed for the purpose. 

As a killer malaria was forging ahead of beri-beri, dysen- 
tery and sepsis. My diary for November 17th reads: 

“Malaria is replacing beri-beri as the prison scourge. It 
kills more quickly and frequently. Weakened by malnutri- 
tion and exhausted by chronic malaria, men are dying like 
flies. There is no quinine. Yesterday the Japanese gave us 
24 pills— 24 quinine pills for 300 malaria-ridden men. They 
are collapsing in their cells, are carried in here and die a few 
hours later. Fear is paralyzing internees. Fear that ‘I may 
be next.' 

“Our survival is a race against time— the time of freedom. 
Another six months of this and more than half of us will 
have died. God send us deliverance soon.” 

My own health was slipping rapidly. My back gave out 
from bending too long over too many benches. Dressing 
hours were from breakfast until dark, with an intermission 
for midday tiffin. That was the only way we could attend 
our 120 or 140 patients daily, some requiring up to an 
hour's work apiece. By mid-November the prison daily sick 
roster fluctuated between 400 and 500 names. Our total 
population was dwindling toward 700. Only the most seri- 


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ously ill of the sick roster were in hospital; others lay in 
cell blocks waiting for admittance as death created vacancies 
on hospital benches. 

Each day I found it more difhcult to bend over the 
benches or straighten up afterwards. Exhaustion dragged 
at me. Dr. Lentze stopped me one day to investigate. He 
listened with his stethoscope, thumped here and there, 
twisted my neck and came up with two long names that 
spelled B-A-D. 

“Your lungs are bad and you probably have an inflamma- 
tion of the spine,” he said. “No more dressing. Light work 
only.” 

I wasn't surprised. I had been kidding myself too long 
that the ache would wear off. Oosten heard of Lentze's 
verdict and went into a huddle with him. Then Oosten 
made a solo decision for which I always will be grateful 
but which plunged him into more controversy. Without 
consulting the Camp Committee he requisitioned two one- 
pound tins of powdered milk from the Red Cross supplies 
and gave them to Lentze for me. 

Quartermaster Thomson had the job of mixing and issu- 
ing powdered milk for hospital patients. Lentze told him 
to give me two cups a day while the tins lasted. 

One of the other doctors blew a fuse when he learned 
Oosten had requisitioned the milk for me and descended 
on the Camp Committee with demands for an investigation. 

Oosten defended his action, saying, “The milk came from 
the American Red Cross. The least we can do is give some 
to a sick American.” 

Small as was the amount of milk it worked wonders, 
keeping me on my feet. 

About that time the Japanese showed a sudden statistical 
interest in prisoner deaths. They required typewritten death 
certificates, in triplicate, and a daily roster of sick with 
names of ailments. I did the typing as one of my light 
duties. 


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Seki's interpreter banned use of the words “hunger 
oedema” and “dysentery” in describing causes of death. 

“Internees do not die of hunger,” he said, “they are 
merely sick.” 

For dysentery he insisted on substituting the word “in- 
testines.” 

“John Doe died of intestines.” 

Doctors then began using as death causes the terms “in- 
anition,” which means exhaustion from lack or non-assimila- 
tion of food; and “marasmus,” which means progressive 
emaciation. “Inanition” and “marasmus” were not in the 
interpreter’s dictionary. 

A second storm burst over the hospital in November 
and Dr. Lentze resigned. He was succeeded as hospital chief 
by Dr. H. P. Kramer, a tall, pompous Hollander, who with 
Dr. W. Kampschuur, third of the new doctors, had been 
on the medical staff of another tin mining company on the 
island of Billiton. Kramer had been in office only a short 
while when, backed by Dr. Hollweg and Guy Fawkes, he 
crossed swords with the Camp Committee and the hospital 
staff. A long drawn, bitter fight ensued during which both 
the committee and the doctors appealed to the camp for 
justification of their respective stands. Quartermaster Thom- 
son, Engineer Harrison and I became deeply involved in the 
controversy, opposing Kramer and Hollweg on one hand and 
Oosten’s formulas for settlement on the other. 

Who was right or wrong I will not attempt to say, be- 
cause the other side would have no chance of replying. Each 
of us passionately believed his side was right and the other 
man’s was wrong. Let it remain thus. A blow by blow 
description of the battle would make an interesting docu- 
mentary on human nature but I think Bishop Mekkelholt 
was right when he said, in the thick of the fray, 

“I hope you don’t write all this some day.” 

“Why not?” I asked. 

“It would only fan old animosities which are better 


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buried/’ said the Bishop, “and it might seriously damage 
the reputations of men who after the war will look back on 
these times and feel ashamed of their actions. Don’t for- 
get, all of us in here are a little abnormal.” 

He was correct. I wonder how I would look if a talking 
picture of myself then were played back for me now? 

I never heard the Bishop say a mean or petty thing about 
any man, not even about men who counted themselves his 
enemies. 

The following page, then, will represent a veil drawn over 
a long, shameful episode in the history of our internment. 
I hope the hatreds which flared during that human dog- 
fight and poisoned our relations throughout the remainder 
of the war have since been extinguished. 


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This page is dedicated to 
the peace making 

of 

Most Reverend H. M. Mekkelholt, S.C.J. 
Vicar Apostolic 
of 

Palembang, Sumatra 


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19 

How Men Die 


T hey say Beauty is in the eye of the beholder; 
and so it is with Death. If a man sees in Death 
the beginning of Eternal Life, then for him 
Death holds no terrors except the physical agonies of pass- 
ing; but if he sees in Death only a dark mirror reflecting his 
own forebodings, then Death is fearful no matter how pain- 
less the crossing. 

Death was nothing new to me whose days as a reporter 
frequently had been concerned with violence: catastrophe 
and homicide, blood and tears. The persons involved, how- 
ever, usually had been strangers. In prison camp they were 
men whom I knew well, whose wounds I had dressed, whom 
I had nursed, waited beside, laid out, encofhned and helped 
bury. Having myself nearly slipped through Life's trap door, 
I felt acquainted with what they were experiencing in their 
extremity. Always in my mind was the thought, “There, 
but for the grace of God, go I.” And I watched them to see 
how they faced their final and greatest question. 

In Muntok Prison alone, 259 men learned the answer 
and now lie beneath the pepper trees. Some went trembling 
with fear, despair or remorse; others bravely, with faith and 
hope. Some died beeause they did not have the courage to 
live while others went down fighting. Greed and personal 
folly were as responsible in certain instanees as were hunger 
and disease. There were men who cringed and whimpered 
at the end and others who died almost gaily. Some wel- 

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corned Death as a release from suffering; others, as the door 
to paradise. Extremely few were conscious to the last. Most 
entered comas hours before slipping out of life. Even upon 
those who were waiting and expecting him, Death usually 
stole like a thief, whisking them off minutes or hours or 
days before they really knew their visitor was on the thresh- 
hold. 

Having watched many men die I am convinced that true 
inner happiness has nothing to do with bodily ills. Men 
can be in agony yet spiritually serene if they have faith in 
God. Conversely, if they are wracked with doubts and the 
Beyond is only a black question mark, their forebodings can 
be worse than any physical pain. 

There are men of no religion who die bravely, too— but 
with a kind of defiance, an attitude of “whatever comes. Til 
face it and be damned to it.” 

Whenever I saw a man dying defiantly I thought of an 
execution in the Utah State Prison in 1938. Utah gives a 
condemned man his choice of being shot or hung. John 
Deering, murderer, chose shooting. His was a widely her- 
alded execution. Within minutes after his death his eyes 
were scheduled to be removed, packed in ice and flown to 
San Francisco to be used for corneal graft operations in re- 
storing sight to three blind persons. The actions of his 
heart during those awful seconds of suspense before the 
bullets struck, and afterwards until the final beat, were to 
be revealed by an electrocardiograph attached to Deering 
during the execution. It was the first time in medical his- 
tory a condemned man’s last moments were to be so blue- 
printed. 

I was one of five men who sat with Deering through his 
last night alive, while he awaited dawn and the firing 
squad. Outwardly, he was the calmest man in death row as 
we talked the night away and discussed, among other 
things, God and the hereafter. 

“If God exists,” said Deering, “and I'm not saying He 


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either does or does not, but if He does then He knows 
everything and that Fm getting exactly what I deserve for 
what Eve done. I’m paying and I figure that will balance 
the books. 

“Who knows?” he added facetiously, “Maybe when old 
Charon ferries me across the River Styx there’ll be two 
beautiful houris waiting to greet me with a jug of wine. 
What I’d better do is take up a collection to pay Charon 
his ferrying fee.” 

Deering held out his hand. 

“Give,” he said, laughing. 

I dropped a fifty cent piece in his open palm. 

At 4:00 A.M. when he had only two more hours to live, 
Deering said he was tired and wanted to sleep. He lay 
down on his bunk and slept. At five minutes to six he was 
awakened, the death warrant read to him and he walked 
down three flights of stairs into the prison yard where the 
firing squad waited. He was strapped into a chair, a target 
placed over his heart, the copper bands of the electrocardio- 
graph were fastened to his wrists. He made a brief speech 
and finished by saying, 

“I’m ready. Let ’er go!” 

The rifles cracked. After his body had been removed 
from the chair and laid on a stretcher I placed the fifty cent 
piece— “Charon’s fare”— which he had given back to me 
when the death march started, on the bloody target over 
his heart. The firing squad’s marksmanship had been ex- 
cellent. The coin just covered the four bullet holes. 

Apparently he had been icy calm to the last second. But 
the electrocardiograph record showed he was not. The 
heart specialists who studied the record said Deering was 
terrified. His iron will had enabled him to hide his fear 
beneath a defiant exterior. He had been on fire inside but 
he put on a bold front and staged a dramatic show. 

“His heart was beating so fast while he was making his 
speech just before the bullets struck,” said Dr. Stephen H. 


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Beesley, prison physician, “that if they had not struck and 
his heart maintained that pace only a little longer he would 
have collapsed and died of heart failure.” 

Deering was an example, in my opinion, of how success- 
fully a man can masquerade. Bold fronts no longer impress 
me but a quiet heart does and I think the latter can be 
detected. There is something about a peaceful heart that 
communicates itself to others. At the end of a man’s life, 
possession of such peace is reward beyond measure for 
whatever it cost him. And nothing can compensate for its 
absence. 

All of which is by way of introducing the stories of some 
of the men who died in Muntok Prison hospital. 

If Old Pop, down-on-his-luck rubber planter who was 
our first ward “matron” in Palembang Jail, could have 
known it, he would have considered it some sort of omen 
when the rope broke as we lowered his coffin into a grave 
in Muntok cemetery. But he was inside and so knew noth- 
ing of being dropped instead of lowered respectfully and 
gently into the hole as we intended. 

Luckily, the fragile, bulging box did not burst and spill 
its contents of beri-beri swollen flesh. There was only a 
bump, a crunch of wood and a sodden noise as Pop’s bulk 
jolted roughly to rest. 

“Remember man, that thou art dust . . intoned 
Hammet, throwing a handful of earth into the grave. Other 
little showers of earth rattled on the box as we each tossed 
our parting tribute. Then, rubbing sore shoulders on which 
the coffin had rested during the mile-long, weary march 
from jail to cemetery, we retraced our steps. 

There was little conversation. Pop’s passing had touched 
us more than most. It seemed only yesterday instead of 
two and a half years ago that he had joined us in Palem- 
bang Jail and become an institution of bedpans and proph- 
ecy. The two were inseparable in Pop’s case as he ran the 


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dysentery ward and read his Bible, drawing therefrom 
prophecies concerning us and the war. 

Quoting scriptural passages he forecast when the first 
American planes would roar overhead, when the war 
would end and when we would be released. Our good- 
natured jeers did not in the least perturb him when the 
dates arrived without fulfillment of his predictions. 

“I see where I made my mistake,” Pop would admit. “I 
misread that passage in Revelations by six months. But I’m 
sure of my interpretation now; we’ll be out of here in an- 
other six months.” 

Then he would quote the passage and explain his inter- 
pretation. Another six months would pass and we would 
remind Pop of his prophecy. 

“How do we know the war hasn’t ended?” he would say. 
“Fighting could be over months before we’d learn about 
it in this backwater. Besides, it says in Revelations . . .” 

And he would be off again on his favorite theme. All his 
dates came and went eventlessly but Pop was never discour- 
aged, nor his faith in his prophetical ability shaken. We 
wished, as we buried him, that he still was around to proph- 
esy. He was a good fellow, rotund, merry, fuss-budget Pop, 
matron of the Palembang Jail dysentery ward, prophet and 
perpetual optimist. 

Pop’s only belongings when I met him were a small suit- 
case— empty— a Bible, a cheap watch, a knitted green shawl 
and the shirt and shorts he wore. When he died, the only 
additions to his possessions were a few tins and coconut 
shells. Almost all prisoners acquired belongings during their 
internment but not Pop. He wanted nothing but to rule 
his domain of bedpans. He ran it, until sickness relieved 
him of the job, like a fussy old hen mothering a brood of 
scabby chicks. 

Although as ward matron Pop could have enjoyed the 
prerogative of a wooden door for a bed, he preferred throw- 
ing a rice sack on the cement floor and lying on it. Always 


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barefoot, he never wore sandals despite frequently infected 
feet. Another idiosyncrasy was a pretense of fasting one day 
a week. He drew his food on that day ostensibly to give a 
sick friend. While we ate he busied himself with hospital 
tasks and all day reminded us he had not eaten. At night, 
when he thought no one could see him, he ate. Next day 
he would tell us how fit he felt despite twenty-four hours 
without food. 

Pop chattered incessantly. We got so the only times we 
heard him were when he was suddenly silent; then, startled, 
we would look around. Two things were possible. Either he 
had fallen asleep or was studying his Bible for another 
prophecy. 

Pop actually worked only the first nine months of cap- 
tivity. The rest of the time he was a patient. But he had 
become a tradition, a part of our surroundings, a sort of 
gossipy, flesh and blood family skeleton. 

On his birthday in October 1943, I gave him a cigar for 
which I had searched the prison. Beissel finally got it for 
me from a guard. It was a rank, native-made cheroot but it 
was the first one Pop had smoked in eight months and he 
always said he preferred a cigar to a meal. The old boy was 
as tickled by the fact some one remembered his birthday 
as by the cheroot. 

'"Mac," he said, "this cigar is so good Pll let you in on a 
secret. I’ve been lying here re-interpreting the scriptures 
and I have figured out exactly when the war will end. This 
is an unqualified prophecy. You can write it down. Ger- 
many will collapse between October 20th and November 
yth. Japan will surrender just before Germany does.” 

"You mean this year or next year?” I asked. “Tomorrow 
is October 20th.” 

"This year of 1943/’ Pop emphasized. "This very week. 
At this very minute Germany may be seeking an armis- 
tice.” 


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He picked up his Bible. 

“It says right here in the Book of Daniel, ‘Blessed is he 
that waiteth and cometh to the thirteen hundred and 
thirty-fifth day.’ Now their calendar in those days was 
just a little off. Adjusting their calculations to what we 
know now . . .” 

“Wait a minute, Pop. What’s the Bible counting from? 
Thirteen hundred and thirty-five days from what?” 

“Munich, of course,” 

“Munich? Is Munich in the Bible?” 

“It says in the thirteenth chapter of Revelations: ‘And 
power was given him to continue forty and two months.’ 
Now, my interpretation is that ‘him’ means England. Hit- 
ler is the beast referred to earlier in the chapter and Japan 
is the second beast. In other words, England at Munich 
gave Hitler, the beast, power to continue for thirteen hun- 
dred and thirty-five days.” 

“Hold on, pal. Let me get this straight. Do you mean 
that tomorrow, October 20th, 1943, is the thirteen hun- 
dred and thirty-fifth day since Munich?” 

“Not exactly, but you see, we have to make certain ad- 
justments for the differences between the calendars of the 
Old Testament and now. According to my calculations, this 
week is the time meant. This very week! Of course, it will 
take a few more weeks for the Allies to find us here and re- 
lease us. You wait and see, Mac. We’ll be free in a couple 
weeks.” 

The weeks passed and the months, nine of them. Pop 
became so heavy with liquid it required two men to lift 
him so we could change the dripping mats beneath him 
and put them in the sun to dry. 

“You know, Mac,” he said in July 1944, “my calculations 
were off on that thirteen hundred and thirty-fifth day. 
I’ve been thinking it over and I’m positive it will come in 
October this year. But I probably won’t see it. I won’t live 


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that long. When your American friends come here in Oc- 
tober to liberate the camp, say hello to them for me and 
remember that I predicted the date.” 

“I sure will. Pop, but you’ll be here when they come.” 
“Don’t talk nonsense. Of course I won’t. I know how 
sick I am. And I’m quite ready to go.” 

He died, in August 1944, just one year short of V-J Day. 
Had his bulk been solid it would not have gone in the 
narrow cofBn, but, like a massive sponge, it could be 
squeezed here and expanded there to fit. Pallbearers in- 
cluded his fellow workers, Kendall, who succeeded him as 
matron. Doc West, Harrison, Thomson, Drysdale and 
myself. Because the weight was so heavy we changed fre- 
quently with our alternates during the march. The day was 
hot; sweat poured from us so freely we hardly noticed that 
some of the moisture which soaked our shoulders was not 
perspiration but leaked from the coffin. Beri-beri sweat did 
not stop even in death. We were glad to reach the 
cemetery. 

The last will and testament of handle-bar-moustached 
cockney Herbert Smallwood, who had been my steadiest 
monkey-pox customer, was among those “probated” in 1944. 
I had drawn it up for him in 1942, when he waddled into 
the clinic on a Sunday morning and expressed concern lest 
“something happens to my estate if I croak in here.” 
“Draft me something fancy,” he said, “so they’ll know 
it’s a genuine will.” 

So, mustering my stock of legal phrases, I drew up a will 
containing an impressive number of whereases, wherefores 
and to-wits. Smallwood had no relatives. He directed that 
his estate go to a man in Canada who had befriended him 
during his lumberjack days. In case the man could not 
be found, the estate should go to a lady friend in Eng- 
land. 

“My friend in Canada has a youngster,” Smallwood said 


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in his hoarse tenor. “This money may help put the kid 
through school.” 

Smallwood’s entire “estate” consisted of ten English 
pounds in a Liverpool bank and whatever wages would 
accrue to him from the Canadian Pacific Railroad Steam- 
ship Line during the war. Small as the amount may sound 
it was large to the ex-sailor-lumber jack-grocery-boy-roust- 
about. 

Often on moonlight nights we sat in the yard while he 
smoked my tobacco, told me tall tales of his roistering life, 
and speculated what he would do if he did not “croak” but 
returned to England after the war. 

On July 4, 1943, Smallwood wheezed into the Barracks 
Camp clinic, saluted and began to sing with a voice similar 
to a leaky barrel organ: 

“Oh, say can you see, by the dawn’s early light, what so 
proudly we hailed at the .... at the . . . . ta, ta, ta, ta, 
ta . . . .” 

“Sorry,” he said breathlessly, “I’ve forgotten what’s 
next.” 

He laughed until his eyes watered, his face purpled and 
the spiked points of his moustache quivered as if in a high 
wind. 

When he had subsided enough to talk he explained fur- 
ther, 

“A cutie in Panama taught me the words and I thought 
I’d never forget them. What a girl!” 

He paused in appreciative memory, then continued, 

“What I want to say is. Happy July the Fourth! And 
here is something to remember me by.” 

He handed me a sample-size cake of an American soap. 

The following November Smallwood suffered a heart at- 
tack in his block. Doc said he was too ill to be moved so 
we left him in his bunk, where he had been stricken, until 
he should either die or recover sufficiently to be brought 
into hospital. After the initial spasm had passed he sent for 


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me. He was in great pain, shaking violently and could 
speak only with difficulty. He sounded as though he were 
talking about wool socks but that made no sense. Finally 
it was clear he did mean wool socks. His neighbors said he 
had a pair. They might be outside drying. I found them and 
brought them in. Smallwood motioned me to get beside 
him on the bench. I stepped up. He seized my hands and 
the socks, squeezed one of my hands over the top of one 
of the socks. In the fabric I felt a ring. 

“Yours,” he gasped. “Keep .... yours .... thanks.” 

He had devised a clever hiding place for the ring, a small 
plain gold band. The thick top of the socks had been un- 
ravelled in one spot and reknitted with the ring inside. 
Smallwood did not die as he feared he was going to. When 
he recovered I returned the ring, despite his protestations 
that I keep it. 

Smallwood lived until March 29, 1944, when a funeral 
cortege of thirty men followed his coffin to the cemetery. 
We told the Japanese it was such a heavy load we needed 
that many men to take turns carrying it. 

Van Hutten's death in 1942 while trying to escape was 
one of the most bizarre of our internment. Although it oc- 
curred in Palembang Jail, I tell it here because it was so 
spectacular. 

About two o’clock in the morning of December 24, 
1942, wild screams awakened me. The blood chilling 
sounds, high and continuous, were like the cries of an in- 
jured dog but worse because they were human. My first 
thought was that someone had gone berserk and was killing 
a fellow prisoner. 

Throwing aside my mosquito net I jumped up and ran 
into the yard to see in the starlight a Malay guard running 
around in circles holding his head and screaming. Men 
poured from their cells to converge on the front gates 
which were being clanged shut by frantic guards. 


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Shouts sounded from the street outside. Someone had 
escaped. 

The screaming guard was quieted and brought into the 
clinic. He had a deep gash in his scalp. Doc West took sev- 
eral stitches in the wound and we got the story. 

Several days previously two Indo-European oil workers 
from the Shell refinery at Pladjoe had been brought into 
the jail and kept under constant surveillance in the guard 
room between the inner and outer gates. Guards fre- 
quently left open the outer gate. One of the prisoners, 
named Van Hutten, asked to be taken to the lavatory 
which was in the jail yard. A guard escorted him and left 
open the inner gate. That meant both gates were open, 
although other guards lounged on chairs between them. 
In the lavatory Van Hutten jerked the bayonet from the 
scabbard at the guard’s waist, felled him with a blow on the 
head, dashed across the yard, through the inner gate, passed 
two startled guards and charged through the outer gate to 
freedom. 

From there on Van Hutten’s course was less clear to us 
and confused by conflicting reports. We heard that on the 
street he cut down two Japanese soldiers, knocked a third 
soldier off a bicycle, mounted the cycle himself, pedaled to 
the Moesi river and, under a fusillade of shots from guards 
on the river bank, jumped into the stream. He was not cap- 
tured. Ten days later his fellow prisoner, named Buchanan, 
was taken from the jail and shown the decomposed body 
of a man found in the river. He identified it as Van Hutten. 

The will to live was vital to survival. Given an even break 
and a few extras, sick men who had courage and determina- 
tion might fight their way back to health. Conversely, men 
who lacked fighting spirit succumbed no matter what help 
they obtained. Age had little or nothing to do with a man’s 
will. The odds were heavily against elderly men surviving, 
yet many did while young men died. 


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During our early months in Palembang Jail an English- 
man with dysentery, who had a better than even chance 
of recovering, said he did not want to recover; he wanted 
to die. 

“I’ve lost everything,” he said, “the Japs cleaned me out. 
It isn’t worth the struggle to start over.” 

He practically willed himself into the grave by refusing 
to try. 

A British planter, as soon as he entered Muntok prison 
hospital with malaria, made up his mind he was doomed. 

“My doctor told me to avoid all serious illnesses because 
of my heart,” said the planter. “This is a serious illness.” 

“A headache is serious if you’re in that state of mind,” 
he was told. “Snap out of it and eat your dinner.” 

But he had no more spirit than a lump of clay. His mind 
was set on dying, not because he wanted to but because he 
thought it was inevitable, and so he died. 

Deaths due to greed and folly were not uncommon. Dur- 
ing the beri-beri scourge Doc West was informed that a 
patient critically ill with beri-beri was selling Vitamin B 
tablets. Vitamin B was what the sick man needed more 
than anything else to save his life. Why was he selling the 
tablets? Because he wanted money. 

With commendable acumen the man had purchased his 
store of Vitamin B before he was interned. He had saved 
the tablets for an emergency but they commanded such 
fabulous prices he decided instead to sell. Meanwhile, his 
friends, who were giving him all the extra food they could 
scrape up, also were buying back the tablets for him on the 
black market, not knowing their source. 

“Have you lost your mind?” Doc asked the greedy one. 
“You are selling your life.” 

“I didn’t realize I was that sick,” said the patient. “Be- 
sides, I need the money.” 

Doc took charge of the tablets and saw to it that the sick 


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man swallowed the required number each day. But it was 
too late. After his death a search of his clothing and mat- 
tress disclosed an astonishing sum in hoarded guilders. He 
died at the age of 29, victim of his own avarice. 

Usurers who loaned money for repayment after the war 
at fantastic interest rates did a thriving business. One of 
the most enterprising and successful tradesmen and usurers 
had a Robin Hood streak in him. He was satisfied with a 
small profit on a trade with a comparatively poor man. By 
indefatigable buying and selling on narrow profit margins, 
he gradually cornered a large share of the market in nego- 
tiable goods. Then he branched into food buying. Desti- 
tute prisoners would sell meals in order to get cash for to- 
bacco, a piece of black market fish or a vitamin tablet. The 
meal would be resold to a rich man at a fat profit. The food 
trader’s business became so big that he was able, for a 
monthly retainer’s fee, to guarantee a certain number of 
extra meals of rice per month to men willing to pay the 
price. Having accumulated capital he became a big-time 
money lender. His interest rates were as high as 1,000 per 
cent on small loans and 500 per cent on big loans — repay- 
ment after the war. 

He amassed a small fortune in cash, goods and promis- 
sory notes. He was well nourished and had every prospect 
of surviving to enjoy his earnings. But he did not. Cerebral 
malaria killed him. Money could not protect him against 
mosquitoes or buy quinine when there was none for sale. 

Sometimes a gay or gallant death is sadder than a quiet, 
ordinary one. 

Malaria, beri-beri and exhaustion were finishing a Dutch 
seafaring man I’ll call The Trouper. Dr. Lentze gave The 
Trouper a hypodermic injection and tried to cheer the 
dying man. TTie injection had an exhilarating effect. The 
Trouper suddenly sat up and laughed. 


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“Don’t look so solemn,” he said to Dr Lentze and nearby 
patients. “I know I’m going to die, but it doesn’t matter. 
Cheer up. Let’s sing and laugh. Let’s smoke cigarets, lots 
of cigarets. And let’s have a drink. By all means let’s have 
a drink.” 

He raised a bottle of cold tea to his lips and drank. 

“We can pretend that’s gin.” 

He lit a cigaret. 

“We don’t have to pretend that’s a cigaret.” 

He passed nipa leaves and tobacco to men on either side 
of him. They, too, lit up and smoked. 

“Now,” he said, “let’s sing.” 

He sang rollicking Dutch tunes. His mind and voice 
were clear as bells, clear and high pitched. 

He sent for a friend. When the friend arrived The 
Trouper told him: 

“Please go to my wife and children after the war. Tell 
them how happily I died. Tell them that I did not suffer 
and that I laughed and sang and thought of them at the 
end.” 

The friend promised. 

“Let’s have another cigaret,” said The Trouper. 

The exertions had drained his strength. He lay back on 
the mat but he continued to sing for nearly half an hour, 
until, steadily sinking, he lapsed into a coma, his final sleep. 

About eleven o’clock one night Attendant George Bry- 
ant informed me a patient I’ll call Hals had asked for the 
doctor, saying, 

“I am dying.” 

I notified Dr. Kramer, then went to the dysentery ward. 
Stepping up on the bench I felt Hals’ pulse. No pulse. No 
heart beat. No indication of breathing or other animation. 
The eyes were open, staring, lifeless. Bryant stepped up on 
the bench beside me, looked, said, 

“My gosh, he’s gone already.” 


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“Yes,” I agreed, looking intently into Hals’ blank eyes, 
“he’s dead.” 

Then a chill ran through me. The dead man’s head 
rolled ever so slightly, in nearly imperceptible but distinct 
and emphatic denial. His pulse was indistinguishable, he 
was blind and mute, but he could hear and think! 

“Do you want water?” I asked. 

His head moved in negation. 

Dr. Kramer arrived, examined Hals perfunctorily and de- 
parted, saying, 

“I can do nothing for him.” 

Hals’ head moved. I had a feeling he wanted something 
if I could only guess what. Speaking into his ear I said, 

“I’ll ask questions. You nod yes or no.” 

“Water?” 

No. 

“Position changed?” 

No. 

“Priest?” 

Yes. 

I walked across the concrete pendopo to the Tin Win- 
ning’s other wing and awakened Father Van Thiel who 
had given Hals Extreme Unction two days previously. He 
squatted beside the dying man. 

“This is Father Van Thiel. Can you hear me?” 

A nod. 

“I will pray aloud. You say the words after me in your 
mind.” 

About an hour later Hals’ pulse was perceptible. He 
managed a wraith of a smile and spoke two words. 

“Water finger.” 

I dipped my finger in cold tea and moistened his lips 
and tongue. A better idea occurred. I soaked a cloth in the 
tea and squeezed drops into his mouth. He managed to 
swallow. He was rallying but ever so slightly. I asked if he 
wanted me to put the cloth in his mouth so he could suck 


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it. He nodded yes. Later his eyes closed and he appeared to 
sleep. I went to bed. 

When the attendant on the following shift came on 
duty Bryant warned him of our experience with Hals. Next 
morning the attendant told us another episode in the 
macabre drama. About three a.m. he carefully examined 
Hals and, certain the man was dead beyond all doubt, 
folded his arms over his breast, pulled a blanket over his 
face and called the doctor. 

The doctor came, found Hals still alive— and conscious! 
Hals really died, according to the doctor’s stethoscope, at 
four o’clock in the afternoon. But we did not bury him for 
another twenty-four hours, just to make sure. I wonder 
what were his thoughts when he heard me pronounce him 
dead? 

A few weeks later the same thing happened to another 
patient in the dysentery ward. One of the priests was pre- 
sumed dead by two fellow priests who were ward attend- 
ants. They were looping a rag around his head to hold his 
jaw shut, preparatory to encofhning him, when the “dead 
man” blinked his eyes to signal he was still alive. 

My observations convinced me that most men who are 
aware death is approaehing, desire to be at peaee with God. 
However, some do not want their friends to know it. Why? 
Because their neighbors might think them weaklings, or 
sentimental or afraid. A man I will call Crumpet was one 
of these. He had been in and out of hospital for two years. 
While I was dressing him one morning he asked, sotto 
voee, 

“Do you know some prayers? It looks like I might not 
make it and I’d like to say a few.” 

“Sure. Do you remember the Lord’s Prayer?” 

“Va^ely.” 

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and he repeated it after me. Soon he knew it again as well 
as when he had learned it in childhood. As I left him to con- 
tinue my dressing rounds, he said, 

“Don't tell any one, will you?" 

“Of course not." 

“Can you come back and see me after roll call?" 

“Sure." 

That night, in undertones, we discussed religion and 
man's obligations to his Creator. Crumpet talked freely be- 
cause he was confident no one but me could hear him. He 
lay on one end of the bench, next to the wall. The two men 
nearest him on the other side were in comas. Therefore, he 
felt secure in talking unheard. He admonished me again 
to say nothing. 

“They would think it was queer if they knew," he ex- 
plained. “And it's none of their business." 

“They" was a vague reference to his friends. I suggested 
that he talk either to one of the Protestant laymen who led 
English church services— Anglican minister Wardle had 
died— or to one of the Catholic priests who would be more 
qualified than I to counsel him. 

“No," said Crumpet. “People might think I was getting 
soft. But you might ask the fathers to pray for me." 

I tried to fathom his reluctance to disclose he believed in 
God and was worried about the hereafter. What did his 
neighbors' thoughts matter to him, a dying man? His rea- 
sons reduced to the concern he felt for what his friends 
would think if, after a lifetime of ignoring religion, he sud- 
denly should start to pray. The friends about whom 
Crumpet was so anxious were so little concerned about 
him that they did not even attend his funeral. 

Wembley-Smythe was brought into hospital, for the last 
time, exhausted from hunger and malaria. Obviously, he 
was doomed. Just as obviously he didn't realize it. He was 


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surrounded by the same conspiracy of silence that sur- 
rounds most dying men— unless they expressly desire to 
know for religious or other reasons. 

The conspiracy of silence is based on the theory that in- 
forming him he is dying could only frighten or panic a 
man. I think it panics only those who have little faith. As 
far as I could tell by observation, the knowledge they were 
dying did not frighten those who were informed of it so 
they could receive the last sacraments of their Church or 
who, like Old Pop, knew instinctively their condition and 
accepted it. 

Contrary to frightening them. Extreme Unction ap- 
peared to give dying men spiritual ammunition that bright- 
ened their eyes and in many cases gave them new physical 
strength. More than a few who were anointed recovered 
instead of dying. 

Wembley-Smythe, like many another, once remarked he 
hoped that when his time came it would come so quickly 
he would know nothing about it. His wish was partially ful- 
filled in that he had no idea how sick he was. He drifted 
into a coma the second morning after his arrival. That 
night about ten o’clock I crouched beside him on the 
bench and, as I counted his waning pulse, he died. 

The Hollander lying next to him began to cry. He and 
Wembley-Smythe and I had been good friends. To him, 
as to me, Wembley-Smythe’s story was the story of most of 
the British community. Shipwrecked, penniless, inept at 
caring for himself, with never a cent except occasional in- 
finitesimal loans, uncomplaining, cheerful, cultured, tol- 
erant, and a strange mixture of agnosticism and Sunday 
church going. 

His body was so emaciated the ward attendant and I had 
no difficulty lifting it onto a stretcher and carrying it to the 
mortuary. There were several coffins waiting. We opened 
one but it already was occupied. 

The occupant gazed blankly up at us, his cold eyes re- 


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fleeting the light of the kerosene lamp. We replaeed the 
lid and opened another box. It, too, was oecupied. 

“Damn,” we exploded simultaneously. “The empties 
are on the bottom.” 

Four coffins were in the mortuary, stacked in twos, and 
the attendants who carried out the previous two bodies had 
not switched the bottom empties to the top. We carried 
Wembley-Smythe back outside, got additional help to lift 
the full boxes off the empties and finally put him into one. 

As we encoffined him I thought of the discussion 
Wembley-Smythe and I had the night of a moonlit thun- 
derstorm in Barracks Camp. He had expressed doubt there 
was a hereafter for the souls of men and jokingly remarked 
how dreadfully boring it would be if eternity were one long 
black-out and he was compelled to be aware of it. 

I bade Wembley-Smythe a silent goodbye as I closed the 
lid and wondered if, wherever his spirit might be, he was 
bored. 

When all the chips are in and the showdown is against 
him, a man has only his spiritual reservoir on which to 
draw. If that treasury of the soul is empty he has only one 
companion— that most dreadful of enemies: Despair. Spir- 
itual bankruptcy affects men in different ways. It causes 
some to seek Death because they fear Life. It causes others 
to fear Death with a fear that is stark and terrible. 

A man I will call Hamilcar was one of those who in his 
old age could not face new hazards and so sought Death. 
Another man I will call The Cynic was one of those for 
whom Death meant terror immeasurable. 

Hamilcar's passing I call the Death of the Wild Goat 
because he was more than the family black sheep. He had 
been a wild, black goat if even half the stories told of him 
were true. He was a magnificent old boy who barehanded 
would fight a wild cat, but who could not live with himself. 

Tall, slender, white-haired, hawk-nosed and 70, he first 


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aroused my interest in the garden of Charitas hospital 
where I saw him catching sparrows. 

“Keeps me from going crazy/’ he explained, “and be- 
sides, I need the meat.” 

His technique was simple but called for adroitness and 
a patience he could command only for short, intense peri- 
ods while stalking prey. He held one end of a long string. 
The other end was a running loop lying on the ground and 
filled with grains of rice. When a bird hopped into the 
loop he jerked the string, lassoing it by the leg. 

All his life Hamilcar had successfully stalked things, ad- 
venture, battle, roistering fun, fortune. He ran away to sea 
when a boy, prospected for gold and tin and fished for 
pearls in the tropics and sub-tropics. He fought in the Boer 
War and in World War I, winning decorations for gal- 
lantry in action and distinguished service as a commanding 
officer. Returning after the wars to the tropics he struck it 
rich in tin mining, rapidly won and lost two fortunes and 
was in the midst of accumulating and spending his third 
and largest when the Japanese interrupted. 

Hamilcar’s idiosyncrasies were notorious. While in town 
from his mines, men who knew him well told me, he vis- 
isted as many clubs and bars as possible in one evening, 
using a different ricksha for each journey but not paying 
off any of the pullers. However, the pullers did not mind. 
They knew Hamilcar and what was coming. The evening’s 
climax occurred when he returned to his hotel with a 
dozen rickshas trailing behind. Dismissing his last puller 
Hamilcar would mount the hotel steps, pause at the top, 
throw handfuls of currency into the air and howl with 
laughter at the ensuing scramble. 

Hamilcar never notified his cook in advance of dinner 
guests until the guests arrived, whereupon he would point a 
loaded revolver skyward and pull the trigger. One shot for 
each guest. The listening cook prepared accordingly. 

Bird catching and other activities occupied Hamilcar’s 


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daylight hours in Charitas but when everyone else had gone 
to sleep his private hell began. He could not sleep. There 
was no one with whom he might talk. He could not walk 
around in the garden, nor could he he still in bed. He had 
to be moving. So he would go into a bathroom, lock the 
door and pace up and down its twelve foot length. He 
paced, not by striding but by placing one foot exactly in 
front of the other, heel to toe, like a man measuring dis- 
tance with his feet. 

“That's how I keep from going crazy at night," he ex- 
plained. 

Confinement was his nemesis. He lived in dread of being 
returned to jail. He said he would kill himself if he had to 
go back. Because of his age and ailments he remained in 
Charitas until it was closed, then he had to return. Soon 
after arriving in Muntok Prison he tried to make good his 
threat. Matron Kendall caught Hamilcar trying to hang 
himself. After that we watched him but one night he fooled 
the watcher. He rose from his mat on the hospital bench 
and stood up. His six feet of lean frame towered in the flick- 
ering light from the oil lamp. The attendant thought Hamil- 
car was standing at the foot of the bench preparatory to 
stepping down. But he was not. He dove head first onto the 
concrete floor. 

The impact did not kill him as he hoped, nor even knock 
him out. But it sliced his scalp and was such a severe shock 
he was finished physically. He lay for three days begging for 
a shot of dope to quiet his nerves. Death finally quieted 
them. 

Suicide attempts were rare throughout internment. Only 
two besides Hamilcar came close to success. One man 
slashed his wrist as he lay in bed. He planned to bleed to 
death quietly but neighbors noticed the blood and a tourni- 
quet saved him. 

Another man stabbed himself in the chest, but instead of 


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piercing his heart inflicted only a minor flesh wound. How- 
ever, he nearly died of shock. Doc West had a few ampules 
of adrenalin. They brought the man out of his shock after 
a nip and tuck period of thirty minutes. 

Threats of a would-be suicide caused us to guard another 
internee day and night for months. Finally a watcher, tiring 
of his vigil, said: 

‘‘I’m going to bed and I hope you kill yourself while I’m 
gone because you’re nothing but a damn nuisance.” 

Next morning the nuisance complained to the Camp 
Committee that he was being improperly guarded. No one 
guarded him after his bluff was called; but, like the man 
who stabbed himself, he died later of “natural” causes at the 
age of 38. 

The Cynic displayed abject terror at its worst. I call him 
The Cynic because he had been an habitual scoffer. But 
when Death looked him in the eye The Cynic collapsed in 
a heap of howls and tears. He was in strong voice when he 
was carried into hospital and the voice continued strong 
until the end, two days later. Such fear I have never seen. 

Over and over he cried out: 

“I’m dying. I’m dying. Don’t let me go. Hold on to me. 
Don’t let me go. Hold my hands.” 

He screamed for Dr. Hollweg and when Hollweg arrived 
cried, 

“Pull me back. I’m sinking down the long tunnel. Pull 
me back. Stay here. You are going farther away. You are 
fading away. Save me. Save me. Don’t let me die. Hold on 
to me. Pull me back.” 

The Cynic clung to Hollweg with a grip of frenzy. For 
a man who was dying he had uncommon strength. His mind 
was clear. He talked and answered questions rationally. 
There was no question of delirium or insanity. It was sheer 
terror. The be-all and the end-all of The Cynic’s life had 
been his own egotism. But it would not succor him when he 


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was about to embark on a voyage into the unknown. So he 
screamed for his friends to pull him back from the edge of 
the abyss. For him life had been completely material and 
now at the end material assistance was all he could under- 
stand. To ask God’s help in his travail did not occur to him. 
He could only ask Hollweg, ‘‘Hang on to me. Don’t let 
me go!” 

Finally, for the sake of other patients and our own frayed 
nerves, it was necessary to quiet him with an ampule of the 
rapidly dwindling and precious stock of morphine Doc- 
West reserved only for men suffering intense pain. The 
Cynic was moved into my “Bedroom & Morgue” where an 
attendant remained constantly beside him. During his last 
twenty-four hours of life The Cynic repeated endlessly, over 
and over again, like a broken phonograph record, a strange 
monologue. In Dutch the words had a certain rhyme and 
cadence. The nearest English translation is: 

There is a village. 

There is a woman in the village. 

The sun comes up over the woman in the village. 

The sun goes down over the village. 

God goes down over the village. 

The woman leaves the village. 

The village is gone. 

Goodbye village. 

Goodbye woman. 

Goodbye sun. 

Goodbye God. 

Hour after hour The Cynic’s deep voice repeated those 
words. The only variation was in volume. As he weakened 
his voice weakened, faded to a mutter, then to a snore. 
Finally it ceased with The Cynic’s heart. 

The Cynic’s opposite number for gameness was a jovial 
salesman, likeable, big hearted and courageous. Hard luck 


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had dogged him from his first day in Palembang Jail. He 
had been one of my early “Palembang Bottom” customers. 

Monkey-pox, boils, hernia, a lame knee, fever, dysentery 
and finally beri-beri had plagued him. He smiled through 
them all. The flesh of his legs was unbelievably distended, 
taut as a drum skin and excruciatingly painful. Wet com- 
presses brought a little relief so I kept his legs wrapped in 
damp rags. While I changed the rags one morning as the 
salesman hovered on the border of semi-consciousness, his 
mind came alive. His lips writhed in the too-familiar, open 
mouthed, ghastly beri-beri smile. He grasped my hand and 
startled me by saying, 

“Oh Mac, what a fool I’ve been.” 

And died. 

The difference spiritual reserves make was illustrated by 
two men who lay side by side in the dysentery ward. One 
was an oil technician in the prime of life. His friends lav- 
ished their resources on him. The other was a 6oyear-old 
tin miner whose friends had nothing. But the miner had a 
courage and shining faith which the technician completely 
lacked. 

Hiccuping was a nearly infallible symptom that a dysen- 
tery patient was dying. Although his heart might be strong 
he usually was doomed once he began to hiccup. 

The miner got hiccups and was in great distress but he 
was game. He knew he was doomed but he insisted on help- 
ing himself as much as possible and he even managed a 
smile or joke between hiccups. 

Buoyed by extra nourishment and the encouragement of 
his friends, the technician put up a good fight until his 
first hiccup. Then he quit and begged for an injection to 
end his life. 

“Put me to sleep,” he whined. “Let me die. What have 
I done to deserve this?” 

The will is like a dam holding back the waters of Lethe. 


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When the will is gone, the flood sweeps in, drowning the 
life too tired to fight. Forty-eight hours after his abject sur- 
render the technician died, whining to the last. 

The miner had no prosperous friends but he had a well 
of inner strength on which he drew and with which he 
fought to the last. He received the last rites of his faith and 
died serenely. 

The technician, with no spiritual reserves, lacked the 
most essential thing of all. 

Vincent Mitbo, 59, a Norwegian and, until jailed, the 
director of the Salvation Army leprosarium near Palem- 
bang, died November 19, 1944, ending a lifetime of service 
for his fellow man. 

Only one other man in prison knew the Salvation Army 
funeral ritual: Oom Piet (Uncle Peter) Rolffs, who had 
been director of an orphanage in a south Sumatra Indo- 
European colony and once a Salvation Army man himself. 
Oom Piet was seriously ill in the septic ward. He had not 
walked for weeks but, summoning a strength which was 
not there until his will created it, he rose from his bench 
and, supported by two friends, walked down the long flight 
of steps to the pendopo where Mitbo’s coffin rested on two 
sawhorses. 

Oom Piet leaned against the coffin, bracing himself with 
his hands, and recited what prayers he could remember of 
the formal service. Then, still leaning on the coffin, he sang 
the Dutch version of “Onward Christian Soldiers." His 
voice was little more than a high, quavering rasp. He had 
to pause for breath between bars. To me the words were 
in an unfamiliar tongue but he sang them unforgettably. 
It was the first time “Onward Christian Soldiers" had meant 
anything more to me than a street corner band and a 
woman in blue passing a tambourine. 

Oom Piet finished and was helped back to the septic 
ward. He was exhausted, trembling with feverish warnings 


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that his exertions had brought on another attack of the re- 
current erysipelas which plagued him. But he was happy in 
the knowledge that he had made possible a proper funeral 
for his friend who had been a real soldier of the Lord. 

Of the dead Mitbo, keeper of lepers, and the dying Oom 
Piet, keeper of orphans, I thought could be written those 
words spoken some nineteen hundred years ago: 

“ 'Amen I say to you, as long as you did it for one of 
these, the least of my brethren, you did it for me.’ ’’ 

On December 4, 1944, Father Bakker was assisted from 
his sick bed to lead the choir in a special song at the funeral 
of Oom Piet. 

Like other men of deep faith, whether lay or clerical, a 
New Zealand tin miner named Enright and a Dutch brother 
named Richardus, of the Order of Our Lady of Lourdes, 
accepted death with a quiet smile. Tliey were secure in the 
belief that beyond the grave eternal life awaited them. 

Enright, who attended Mass every morning before falling 
sick, told me while I was dressing his beri-beri leg, 

"Mac, be sure and give me ample warning if ever I’m 
in danger of death. I want to know.” 

I told Doc West of Enright’s wishes. A few days later 
Doc said, 

"You can tell him now. He won’t last much longer.” 

So I told him. 

"Very well,” said Enright, as matter-of-factly as if he were 
discussing the weather. "Ask Father Filing to come and 
give me Extreme Unction. I’m quite ready to go.” 

Father Filing came. Later in the day I asked Enright if 
he wished any ointment for his itch. Ointment was scarce, 
as Enright knew. 

"No thanks,” he whispered, "give it to some one else.” 
He managed another whisper and a smile. 

"I have only a little longer to itch.” 

He died that night. 


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Brother Richardus died with a quiet joke in the dysentery 
ward which stank indescribably because we were short- 
handed and in the midst of an epidemic. He had received 
Extreme Unction days before and cheerfully was waiting 
for death to relieve him of his suffering. 

It happened to be the durian season when those heavy 
fruits ripened and dropped from the tall spreading trees 
which bore them. Durians are as large as coconuts and 
have a similar protective husk. The edible fruit inside is a 
creamy substance delicious in flavor but stronger in odor 
than overripe limburger. Because of its fetid scent the durian 
is sometimes called civet fruit. 

As was my custom after dressing the patients who ob- 
viously needed it, I asked other patients, by turn, if I could 
do anything for them. 

A grin creased the death’s head that was Brother Rich- 
ardus’ face. His voice was a hoarse whisper but it could still 
make a joke. 

“What will you do for me?” 

“Anything I can. Brother.” 

“Then bring me a durian so I can smell its perfume.” 

“Okay,” I said, “if you’ll only smell it and let me eat it.” 

“We will divide it,” said Brother Richardus, laughing 
soundlessly, “so I can tell St. Peter how good it tastes. I 
think he never ate a durian.” 

Half an hour later Brother Richardus was in St. Peter’s 
realm. 


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Christmas Comes Again 


T his is where we came in, nineteen chapters ago 
when this story began with old Brinker dying in 
Muntok Prison hospital the night of December 
24, 1944 choir sang Christmas carols. 

After encofhning Brinker I returned to the staff room 
where Eric gave me a Christmas present, an American 
cigaret he had saved from the Red Cross issue in October. 
I smoked it and occupied the time until sleep came thinking 
that the events of this Christmas of 1944 furnished a key to 
the whole story of our prison life and its struggles which 
were trying the souls of men. 

Old Brinker had lost the battle for his life but, as he re- 
marked to Father Bakker several days before, he wasn’t 
worrying because he believed he had saved his soul. In these 
surroundings, at this time and place, Brinker ’s passing had 
been somber, yes, but not a tragedy. Rather, it had been a 
happy passage. He was ready to go; he had returned to his 
faith after thirty years away and his heart was at peace. 
That was why he could crack his last joke when I told him 
the choir would sing in time for him to hear them. 

'‘Good,” he had said, “then I’ll be able to compare them 
with the angels.” 

Perhaps Death had been a welcome Christmas visitor to 
old Brinker. 

Thinking those thoughts I fell asleep. When I awakened 
Christmas morning I remembered how I had opened my 

252 


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eyes just one year before, in 1943, from the long blackout 
of cerebral malaria, to see Father Elling looking down at me 
and hear him saying, '‘Merry Christmas/’ 

“Now to reverse the proceedings,’’ I said to myself. 
Rising, I slipped my toes into a pair of terompaks and 
clumped into the fever ward where Father Elling lay re- 
cuperating from a siege of malaria and dysentery which had 
nearly finished him. He had been one of the fifteen clergy- 
men who volunteered to man the dysentery and septic 
wards. Three of them were now dead— of dysentery— and 
eleven were sick. Father Elling had fooled us by throwing 
off the dysentery but chronic malaria still slowed his recov- 
ery. I stepped up on the bench, looked down at him and 
said, 

“Merry Christmas, pal. The tables are now turned.” 

He laughed weakly, shook hands and said, “Completely 
turned, and the same to you.” 

Then I walked across the pendopo to the Pangkal Pinang 
block where Father Bakker lived. Last night he had been 
too wracked with fever to lead his beloved choir. This morn- 
ing the fever had subsided and he was dragging himself 
around getting ready to say Mass. 

“Merry Christmas, Mac,” he said. “Next year I hope you 
will be at home for Christmas.” 

After Mass I stood at the front gate with a host of others 
seeing Bishop Mekkelholt off to visit the Women’s Camp. 
It was the first and the last time any internee from Muntok 
Prison was permitted to visit the women and every man 
rejoiced that now, after a year and three months, we would 
learn something of their condition. 

Bishop Mekkelholt, wearing his episcopal robes as he 
waited for the gate to be opened, was a strange contrast to 
the everyday Bishop Mekkelholt we were accustomed to 
seeing, wearing a pair of shorts and a pajama jacket and 
squatting over a tiny fireplace cooking kachang ijau soup 
for his sick priests. 


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He returned in two hours with cheering news. Although 
not permitted to converse with the women he was allowed 
to preach a sermon. His eyes had been busy and the nuns 
who sang the responses to the High Mass he celebrated had 
managed to convey him some information too. 

He said the women looked in better health than we men. 
Their camp, of seven wooden barracks and a hall open on 
the sides, was set on a hill about 300 feet above sea level, in 
a healthier location than our miasmic one. He believed their 
mortality rate would be lower than ours. Seki give him a few' 
statistics. In the Women’s Camp that Christmas day were 
696 persons, of whom 160 were children and 83 were nuns. 
Approximately 350 attended Mass, many in tears. Tlieir 
choir, the same one that had serenaded our working party 
from afar Christmas Day, 1942, sang carols. 

Old Brinker and another man were buried Christmas 
afternoon. The double funeral did not dampen our limited 
celebration. Funerals were too commonplace to affect our 
morale. Already it was about as low as it could go. But our 
spirits were raised temporarily by 100 grams (3V2 ounces) 
of pork sauce on our rice and three cups of coffee, one in the 
morning, one at noon and one at night. The pork was from 
our own pig. We had been raising pigs— feeding them our- 
selves— ever since arriving in Muntok but this was the first 
time Seki had allowed us to kill one. Not even news could 
help morale like pork sauce and coffee. 

TTie food situation was becoming grimmer. Rations had 
shrunk another 15 per cent. Although there had been no 
announcement of reduction, a shrinkage was evident. Our 
kitchen staff could estimate to an ounce. 

A dog somehow got into the Tin Winning yard the night 
of December 28th. Dr. Kampschuur and a friend were the 
closest. They seized and killed it in a trice and soon were 
cooking canine stew. 

Although rations diminished, Seki’s attitude toward us 


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improved. On January 1, 1945, he gave us our third pleasant 
surprise in a month. The first had been allowing Dr. Lentze 
to be taken to a Japanese hospital on the other side of 
Bangka Island for an emergency appendectomy. The second 
had been allowing Bishop Mekkelholt to visit the Women's 
Camp. The third, New Year's day, was a general distribu- 
tion of Japanese cigarets and the gift of two wild pigs, 
caught by natives and bought by Seki. The pigs together 
weighed 200 kilograms (440 pounds) . We divided the meat 
equally and asked Seki to take half to the Women's Camp, 
which he did. 

Seki surprised us still further by unexpectedly taking an 
interest in a hospital patient, G. J. Geursens, former man- 
ager of the Bangka Tin Gompany, who lay critically ill in 
the dysentery ward. Daily for two weeks Seki sent three 
eggs, three bananas and a cup of kachang ijau soup to 
Geursens. A patient alongside Geursens died cursing Seki 
for not bringing food for other sick men too. 

Seki's interest in Geursens was at the request of the Japa- 
nese doctor Hasegawa who operated on Dr. Lentze and 
brought him back from Muntok. Hasegawa said he acted at 
behest of Japanese officials who were trying to operate the 
tin company. Geursens disappointed them by dying. 

On January 9th Seki allowed a few boys under sixteen to 
go to the Women's Gamp and talk for five minutes with 
their mothers. 

A few days later Seki furnished the hospital with large 
mosquito nets which he said would accommodate “eight 
Japanese soldiers or twelve internees." 

January 11, 1945, Eric and I received our first mail from 
home. Some British mail had been received previously. Let- 
ters from our mothers disclosed they had received at Christ- 
mas time, 1943, the cards we wrote in March 1943. We 
hoped they knew we still were alive. We hoped, too, that 
atrocity stories concerning prisoners of war were not being 


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published in America and adding to their worries. (After 
the war I learned atrocity stories had been widely published 
because they stimulated war bond drives. ) 

A clue to Seki's changing attitude was furnished by the 
Chinese food contractor who, for the first time since he had 
done business with us, opened his mouth on other than 
business matters and muttered to a worker unloading 
rations, 

“War soon finished.” 

That was in January, 1945. The war couldn't finish too 
soon. Blackwater fever, a complication of chronic malaria, 
had appeared among us. My own health, which had been 
buoyed in November by the powdered milk and change of 
jobs to lighter duties, was slipping again. My knees were too 
shaky for even lighter duties and intestinal troubles were 
plaguing me. Lentze ordered me to bed, and onto the 
dreaded diet of all intestinal patients— soft rice porridge. It 
was a necessary cure but contained little nourishment except 
starch. If prolonged, the diet inevitably resulted in beri- 
beri. 

Wrapped around some bean curd cakes delivered to the 
hospital by the contractor were several Malay newspapers. 
They disclosed that American forces had landed in the 
Philippines the previous October and that Germany was 
crumbling. One of the newspapers said that the battle for 
Leyte would decide the fate of the Pacific war but that there 
was no question who would win it: Nippon. Enroute to 
the cemetery next day pallbearers saw a public notice posted 
in the street. It exhorted natives to help the Japanese defend 
Indonesia against white invaders. 

Piet van der Bergh, a kitchen worker, rushed to the staff 
room where I lay to tell me the news. Joyously I offered to 
bet twenty-five guilders— for repayment after the war be- 
cause I was flat broke— that we would be free by June. Piet 
was more pessimistic and took the bet, saying, 

“That’s too soon.” 


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January 17th Oosten resigned from the Camp Committee 
because of ill health. 

January 29th died New Zealander Burt, who had been 
the guinea pig for our Palembang Bottom experiments. 
Physically, he had been one of the toughest internees. He 
had studied Spanish and learned to play the guitar so he 
could surprise his wife when he got home. 

Just before fleeing Singapore he had been notified of his 
decoration with the Order of the British Empire for his 
services with the engineering corps. 

“They’ll probably send it to my wife to keep for me,” he 
said. “Boy, won’t that be a great day when I get home!” 

February 4th died our poet laureate Curran-Sharp who 
had composed the Ode to Phoebus and had entertained at 
early concerts with verses concerning Palembang Jail per- 
sonalities. Curran-Sharp lost interest in life when he was 
notified by the Japanese that his wife had died in the Wo- 
men’s Camp. She had been the woman caught smuggling 
letters into Charitas Hospital. However, there was no con- 
nection between that episode and her death. When or how 
she died he did not know. Only that she was dead. From 
that day he began to fade. 

Curran-Sharp left a sealed will to be opened after the war. 
In 1947 his friends Doc West and Oosten received small 
cash legacies from Curran-Sharp’s estate “in gratitude for 
your help and friendship during internment and to buy 
some small memento of me.” 

February 5th Dr. Lentze diagnosed my latest troubles as 
intestinal malaria. 

February 7th Direct Action Drysdale finally won an elec- 
tion, defeating Hammet and becoming British Leader. Van 
Asbeck succeeded Oosten as chairman of the Camp Com- 
mittee. 

February 10th Lentze said my insides were getting worse. 

February 11th occurred our second death from that stalk- 


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258 BY EASTERN WINDOWS 

ing horse of malaria, blackwater fever. The victim was only 
21 years old. 

February 12th I awakened to that dreadful S5onbol of 
starvation: swollen feet. 

Lentze redoubled his efforts to save me from the toboggan 
slide into the dysentery or beri-beri wards. He had returned 
from the Japanese hospital with a bottle of cod liver oil 
malt to use for his own convalescence. He gave me what 
remained in the bottle. He found a man willing to sell a 
bottle of a native herb called seri awan, a specific against 
dysentery. The seller wanted fifteen guilders. I was broke. 
Bishop Mekkelholt loaned me the guilders. 

February 13th Seki announced we would be moved 
from Muntok Prison back to Sumatra. Patients in danger 
of death enroute could remain behind with a doctor and a 
few ward attendants until they either died or recovered 
sufficiently to join us. Among those who were left behind 
and who died was the nephew of Boris Karloff, D. F. 
Pratt, who had been master of ceremonies at many jail 
shows. 

February 19th Doctors Kramer and Kampschuur, who 
with Hollweg had headed the opposition in the November 
hospital fight, returned to power and notified seven hospital 
staff members including myself that, on the grounds of 
physical unfitness, we were through as hospital workers. 

February 26th moving began. Prisoners were divided into 
three groups for transportation purposes. I went in the 
second group, March 5th. 

Dr. Lentze elected to remain with the patients too sick 
to be transported. He chose Engineer Harrison and a few 
Dutch ward attendants who also had volunteered, to remain 
and help him. 

Just before my group left I walked into the fever ward to 
say goodbye to my old friend Colijn, who was among those 
too sick to be moved. He had been in the lifeboat which 
picked me out of the Indian Ocean. Later, with his three 


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daughters, we had hiked along the Sumatra coast looking 
for a boat in which to escape again. 

“How much longer will it be, Mac?" he asked, meaning 
the war. 

I said my bets were on June. 

“That will be too long for my strength, Tm afraid," he 
said. 

It was the first time I had ever heard him admit discour- 
agement. But his next words were more cheerful. 

“We will have some big dinners together in America 
after the war," he said, managing a smile. 

“We sure will," I replied, knowing we never would. He 
knew it too. 

Tired as he was he reached out to shake hands. 

“We've been through a lot together, Mac." ^ 

I remembered well. In my mind's eye I saw him again, 
taking a turn at the lifeboat tiller and later, hiking along 
the beach and through the jungle, outwalking a boastful 
native guide who had tried to exhaust him. I thought of his 
escape from the Japanese after he and his wife were cap- 
tured at Tarakan and of the dreams we both had shared for 
escaping again. Now it was the end of the trail. 

“Goodbye, Mac," he said. 

“Goodbye, Mr. Golijn." 

We shook hands. I turned and walked out of the ward. 


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21 

Belalau 


S OMEWHERE enroute to our new prison camp 
I became the party of the second part to a new 
lease on life. Doing everything I should not have 
done cured me. Under no circumstances was I supposed to 
eat anything except soft rice. But soft rice was not avail- 
able. I ate whatever came to hand. I was not to walk but I 
walked and toted a heavy knapsack. When our destination 
was reached my intestinal troubles had disappeared. Thanks 
to efforts of Doc Lentze and other friends I was apparently 
on the road to recovery and needed only one final push to 
effect a cure. The trip did it. From then on rice porridge was 
only a bad dream. I could eat anything and did, even the 
heart of a banana tree. I was rarin’ for action. It came. 

The journey from Muntok Prison verged on the night- 
marish. My group numbered 250 men of whom twent}'- 
five were stretcher cases and many more walking cadavers. 
Midafternoon of March 5th we were stuffed, baggage and 
all, into the holds of a small ship and the hatches were 
closed. Except for the stretcher patients we stood or 
crouched or sprawled on top of each other and our luggage. 

In the packed, suffocating darkness I understood what 
the Black Hole of Calcutta must have been like. The ship 
lay in harbor all night. In small groups and for brief periods 
we were permitted on deck, then herded below again. For- 
tunately the voyage was short. We docked that night at 
Palembang and were loaded into a waiting train of four 

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coaches and a freight car. Windows and doors were sealed 
and blinds drawn so we could neither see outside nor be 
seen. The wooden seats were hard, the floors harder, the 
darkness hot and airless, but it was better than the ship’s 
hold. Next morning the train chugged from the yards and 
halted at the end of the line twelve hours later. Instead of 
being detrained we spent another night in the cars and at 
dawn were unloaded and herded into a fenced enclosure 
near the railroad depot. 

End of the line was a little town named Loeboek Linggau 
in the jungle-clad foothills of Sumatra’s west coast moun- 
tains. Across the mountain range, on the sea side, I had 
been captured three years before, in April 1942. In pre-war 
days Loeboek Linggau had been one of the debarkation 
points for thousands of Javanese farmer colonists, brought 
from their homes in over-populated Java to clear jungles 
and establish settlements in under-populated Sumatra. 

For Resident Oranje our arrival in Loeboek Linggau was 
particularly ironic. At exactly the same spot and in circum- 
stances strikingly similar but in reverse, he, as a representa- 
tive of the Dutch Government of Sumatra, often had 
greeted trainloads of Javanese colonists. 

“They arrived here just as we,” Oranje told me, “crowded 
into third-class coaches; tired, dirty and loaded with tacky 
baggage.” 

Now Oranje himself was one of a group of ragged, dirty, 
tired, heavy-laden men debarking from jam-packed railroad 
cars to be greeted by Sumatra’s new guardians, the Japanese. 

“Mac,” said Oranje with a doleful smile, “the Japs are 
treating us worse than if we were Javanese coolies!” 

I think he missed the full irony of his words. 

A convoy of trucks carried us over a winding gravel road 
from Loeboek Linggau. The road was little more than a 
.swath between jungle and rubber trees. Occasionally the 
jungle fell away at a clearing and mountain peaks were 
visible in the distance. The clearings were areas where trees 


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had been felled and burned by Javanese fanner colonists 
and the land planted with maize, rice, beans, papaya, ba- 
nana and the ubiquitous ubi kayu. The other side of the 
road was a solid phalanx of rubber trees, tall, slender, stand- 
ing in silent ranks that stretched into the perpetual twilight 
of the rubber forest. Undergrowth choked their feet. 

About twelve kilometers (7 Vi miles) from Loeboek 
Linggau the trucks turned into the rubber, followed a wind- 
ing trail through the trees for perhaps another four or five 
kilometers, emerged into sunshine at a large clearing and 
stopped. 

In the clearing were a few low wooden buildings with 
galvanized iron roofs. The inevitable barbed wire fence en- 
circled the area and a stream flowed through it, the fence 
spanning the stream. At the fence gate was a guardroom and 
up a small hill above the road and outside the fence was a 
building containing Seki’s headquarters. The fence was the 
only new thing about the place. The buildings had been 
accommodations for estate laborers and their families and 
were known as coolie lines. 

The coolie lines became our new camp, named after the 
rubber estate, Belalau. Doctors warned us not to walk bare- 
foot because the area was infested with hookworm. At first 
we observed the warning but mud tore terompaks from our 
feet so frequently we were involuntarily barefoot much of 
the time. 

Our water came from the dirty creek and a well sunk 
beside it and had to be boiled. The stream also was our only 
bathing facility. There was not enough fuel for lamps except 
those burning in hospital. A few men, hungry for light at 
night, made firefly lamps by catching and imprisoning the 
insects in bottles. Others tapped rubber trees for latex and 
burned the substance but it made more smoke than flame 
and soon was abandoned. 

The women followed us to the rubber estate in April and 
were installed in similar coolie lines about two or three kilo- 


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meters from our camp. As in Muntok there was no com- 
munication between us and it was not until after the war 
we heard the horrors of their trip. 

Like us they were moved in three groups and packed in 
the ship’s hold. A severe storm increased their misery. 
Antoinette Colijn, who occupied a stretcher herself, said 
nuns had to lie across the stretcher patients to keep them 
from being thrown out of their crude beds. Five women 
patients died in her freight car on the train trip from Palem- 
bang to Loeboek Linggau. 

The women could have left their most critically ill be- 
hind to be nursed by a woman doctor— they had four— and 
volunteers, as we did, but, mistrusting the Japanese, they 
chose to take all their sick. 

Life in Belalau was like camping out. The buildings were 
so vermin-ridden and hot we spent most of our time out- 
doors, prowling for things to eat and wood to cook them. 
We were able to supplement our Japanese issued rations 
with an astonishing variety of self-gathered food. Under- 
growth teeming with edible leaves, vines and berries choked 
the clearing. The banana trees were barren, having produced 
their one and only yield. We felled the trees, stripped off 
outer bark and laid bare the heart, a soft, sweet, fibrous, 
white stalk, that can be eaten when diced and boiled. It 
contains no nourishment but is filling. 

Banana leaves are not edible but have an astonishing 
variety of uses. They serve as umbrellas in a rain storm and 
as wrappers for packages. They make excellent food con- 
tainers and also can be used to line cooking vessels. Dried 
and cut up they become cigaret papers and shredded they 
can be mixed with tobacco to stretch it out. Ribs of the 
leaves can be used as makeshift spoons or woven into 
baskets. 

In a few weeks, of course, our camp was stripped bare 
of its edible foliage. Gardens then were dug and planted 
with ubi, maize, chili peppers and quick growing, leafy 


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plants. Next source of food was the creek but it was soon 
fished, then seined, then scraped empty of stream life. 

The health of nearly all prisoners, except those too far 
gone for saving, improved almost magically. Men were 
cheerful and optimistic in contrast with their former gloom 
and pessimism. Part of the uplift was psychological. No 
longer were we behind walls. Around us were green trees 
and unparalleled opportunity for black marketing with 
Haihos at night along the fence. Their prices were fantastic 
but, pirates though they were, they brought rice, maize and 
beans to trade for our clothing, jewelry, watches or fountain 
pens. 

After three years of imprisonment it was surprising that 
men had anything left to trade. Many who had been wear- 
ing rags and walking barefoot produced brand new shirts 
and trousers that had never been worn. 

The Japanese paid no attention to what we did inside 
the barricades. The camp was dotted with private fireplaces 
cooking black market or self-gathered food. Had Seki cared 
to, he could have uncovered any amount of evidence of 
smuggling from the outside but during the first month of 
internment he did nothing. 

My American partner Eric and I lived with British in- 
ternees in a building next to the creek. As in previous camps, 
men lay shoulder to shoulder on long platforms. Vermin 
life was worse and hospital facilities more primitive than 
any previous place. Although Eric and I no longer were 
members of the hospital staff, having been fired, I resumed 
one chore by request of the Camp Committee: compiling 
the daily sick roster. The job was welcome because it fur- 
nished an opportunity to steal Japanese newspapers. 

Seki’s medical orderly. Sergeant Tani, was a harried little 
man buried under a mountain of paper work. One of his 
tasks was to keep a daily report on each internee, as to 
whether he was well enough to work or sick, and if sick, 
how sick. He had two voluminous books for the purpose. 


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The pages of each book were divided into five spaces, one 
space for each sick man. Those spaces in turn were sub- 
divided into tiny squares, one square for each day of the 
month. Every day one square had to be filled with a Japa- 
nese character denoting the man’s condition, whether he 
had gotten well, was a little sick, very sick, in hospital, or 
dying. My job was to fill each of those little squares, using 
as a guide daily master sheets prepared in camp. The job 
was impossibly long until Tani procured some rubber stamps 
and I did not have to write the characters. After that it 
could be done in an hour or two. 

Seki received Japanese newspapers and mimeographed 
army bulletins at irregular intervals. After he read them 
they were passed around his office to the interpreter and 
clerks and then came to the adjoining office occupied by 
Tani, a clerk and the quartermaster. After each had read 
the newspapers they were placed in a bound file beside 
Seki’s desk. Tani occasionally left one lying on his desk. 
That was my opportunity. 

My nineteen master sheets, containing the name of each 
internee and his state of health, were slightly larger in 
dimension than the tabloid sized Japanese newspaper. Tani’s 
desk was big enough for four persons to work at, two on each 
side facing each other. I sat on the side opposite Tani and 
directly across from his clerk. Beside me sat the quarter- 
master. Seki’s interpreter was a suspicious soldier who fre- 
quently stepped into Tani’s office and looked over my 
shoulder. If for any reason Tani, his clerk and the quarter- 
master were out of the office simultaneously, the interpreter 
sent another soldier in to sit beside me. I was never alone 
except when the interpreter happened to be away; then 
everyone in the office relaxed and Tani would bring me a 
cup of coffee from the kitchen. I always scattered my sheets 
around my quarter of the table, where Tani laid the news- 
paper when he finished with it. If he forgot about the news- 
paper and did not look for it under the sheets all was well. 


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At the end of my morning’s work I would gather the sheets, 
shuffling the newspaper into them, and leave. 

The first time I did it I was as nervous as a burglar on 
his first job. However, I was never caught and apparently 
they never connected me with their missing newspapers. 
One harrowing morning, just as I had gathered up my sheets 
with a newspaper in them, the interpreter came to the desk 
looking for it. While I stood there holding the master 
sheets and two books of medical reports, Tani, the inter- 
preter and two clerks ransacked the desk and then the entire 
office. Why not even the suspicious interpreter connected 
me with the loss was strange but apparently they decided 
one of the gate guards had taken it for they sent a clerk to 
the guardhouse and I left. Father Van Gisbergen translated 
the newspaper as he did others which followed. 

The tone of Japanese press reports in 1945 was an inter- 
esting contrast to that of 1942, 43 and ’44. During the first 
two years newspapers sang paeans of victory even when the 
stories themselves betrayed continuous defeats. The Japa- 
nese fleet kept sinking the American fleet closer and closer 
to Japan. Japanese soldiers kept annihilating American sol- 
diers on various Pacific islands, also closer and closer to 
Japan. But, said Japanese propaganda, these battles were 
being fought in an ever narrowing radius to the homeland, 
merely for the purpose of luring foolish Americans into 
traps so they could be wiped out more easily. 

However, in 1945 Japanese propaganda took another 
turn, changing to wails of despair. Already we had seen, in 
Muntok, posters exhorting Indonesians to assist Nippon in 
repelling expected invaders. Then had come the surprising 
story declaring, “The battle of Leyte will decide the fate 
of Nippon’s holy war in the Pacific.” 

A newspaper I stole in May, 1945, said “America is cruelly 
and bloodily attacking Nippon whose only motive in this 
holy war is to make Asia a land of peace and co-prosperity.” 

But surprise of surprises was a picture magazine I found 


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on Tani’s desk when I sat down to work one morning. The 
magazine lay open at a double spread in color of a mighty 
fleet steaming to victory. Plowing the waves straight off the 
page into the reader’s eye was a head-on view of a battleship 
flanked by cruisers and destroyers and followed by aircraft 
carriers. Overhead the sky was black with warplanes. Wing 
markings of the planes were symbols of the American air 
force and the battleship was flying the Stars and Stripes! 

The fleet Japan had been sinking with such monotonous 
regularity now was steaming in full battle array straight for 
Tokyo Bay and a Japanese magazine was telling its readers 
all about it. 

I made no pretense of not seeing the magazine, as I 
usually did the newspapers. I studied the picture, wishing 
fervently I could read the caption. Then I thumbed through 
the magazine. A full page was devoted to a drawing and 
story of an American four-motored airplane, the biggest 
thing I had ever seen. It was labeled B-29. 

“I’ve got to get this article,” I said to myself. “I’ve got to.” 
I closed the magazine, pushed it aside and looked up 
into the eyes of Tani’s clerk. His face was expressionless. I 
glanced at Tani. He, too, was watching me. He turned his 
eyes away, back to his work. We busied ourselves with our 
respective tasks. Presently the clerk left the room. Tani rose 
from his desk, walked around the table and stood beside 
me. He asked a question about the number of sick. I showed 
him the figures. He picked up the magazine, turned the 
pages to the battle fleet picture and laid the magazine down, 
open. Then he said in Malay two words. 

“Big ship.” 

“Yes,” I replied, also in Malay, “big ship.” 

“American,” he said. 

“Yes, American.” 

“America big country. Yes?” 

“Yes, America big country.” 

He hissed, with a long intake of breath, and said. 


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“America very strong, yes?" 

“Yes, very strong." 

He walked back around the desk, stood for a moment 
looking out the window, and said, 

“Nippon very brave, but so small." 

Tani turned from the window and poked among some 
bottles on a shelf behind him. Selecting a jar marked 
“Vit.B" he turned to the table, poured powder from the jar 
into a small piece of paper. Carefully ^ folded the paper 
around the powder and handed it to me. 

“Eat," he said. “Good for you." 

His clerk returned to the office bearing a tray on which 
were three glasses. He placed one in front of me. Tani 
handed me a Japanese cigaret and a match. I lit the cigaret. 
The glass contained hot coffee with an inch of sugar on the 
bottom. The interpreter and Seki were away. 

Tani and his clerk had always been cordial but today 
they were more so. Plainly they had wanted me to see the 
magazine. And just as plainly I could not steal it because 
they would spot its absence the moment it was gone. But I 
could do one thing if given half a chance. Tear out the 
story of the B-29. The chance came when the clerk returned 
the glasses and Tani also left the room. In the other office 
was another clerk but my back was toward him. I took a 
knife from my pocket and cut the page so there would be 
no tearing noise. 

Father Van Gisbergen translated the article. It described 
in detail the new American super-plane that was “cruelly 
and wantonly raining fire on Japanese women and children, 
thereby violating all the rules of humanity and Christianity 
which Americans so loudly profess." 

It described the plane’s fire power, bomb capacity, cruis- 
ing range and invincibility. 

Japanese propaganda was preparing the people for defeat. 
America was too big, too strong and too cruel to be con- 
quered. 


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Compiling the sick roster had another advantage than 
stealing newspapers. Back in 1939 as I was leaving my home 
in Salt Lake City to start my journey to the Orient, I sud- 
denly remembered I had lost my fountain pen. Lying on 
my father’s desk was a dollar pen he had purchased and dis- 
carded. I picked it up, carried it to Japan, China, India, the 
Indies, and when I was fished out of the sea into a lifeboat 
it was still safely clipped in my shirt pocket. I still had it in 
Belalau and used it occasionally as bait in Tani’s office. 
Haihos wanted fountain pens and I supposed the Japanese 
did too and would pay more, if no one was looking. 

Seki’s clerk, on a morning he was the only Japanese in 
the office, made an offer. I rejected it. After several weeks 
of furtive haggling he paid what I wanted: two beer bottles 
filled with coconut oil, a bottle of palm oil and thirty 
guilders— for my dollar fountain pen. Oil was the most 
precious foodstuff obtainable, next to meat. 

My oil driller friend, Nick Koot, who had made the con- 
tainers in which I buried Camp News, was a partner in a 
neat trick on the Japanese. Koot’s camp job was to keep in 
repair the ramshackle truck that brought our daily rations. 
The garage was adjacent to Seki’s office. Food supplies for 
Seki’s staff were kept in a locked storeroom next to the 
garage. Among the supplies was a 200 liter (52.8 gallons) 
drum of palm oil. 

Koot determined to tap the oil drum. He requested and 
obtained an assistant named Roel de Jong for the truck re- 
pairing job. Koot and De Jong spent two weeks preparing 
for the palm oil burglary. Vital to the project was a duplicate 
key to the storeroom. Dangling from his belt on the end of 
a chain Sesuki, the Japanese quartermaster, carried the 
only key. De Jong engaged Sesuki in conversation while 
Koot surreptitiously fingered the key and made an impres- 
sion on a small piece of soap. Using the impression as a 
model they made a duplicate key. Next, while one stood 
watch, the other oiled the lock and tried the key to make 


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sure both worked silently. Third step was fashioning a 
wrench to fit the drum lid. Finally, they dug two holes, the 
size of water buckets, in the private garden outside their 
block. There the oil would be buried until any possibility 
of a camp search had passed. 

Choosing a torrential night rain storm to cover sight and 
sound of their movements they crawled on their bellies 
through the fence gate, directly in front of the guard room, 
reached the storeroom, unlocked the door, slipped through, 
closed it behind them and went to work. 

From an adjoining room came voices of two guards, shout- 
ing to make themselves heard by each other above the violent 
drumming of the rain. The palm oil drum was tipped on its 
side, the lid unscrewed and the two water buckets filled. 
Working only by their sense of touch in the pitch darkness 
of the storeroom, Koot and De Jong accomplished the en- 
tire job without clanging metal against metal. Also, they 
wiped the floor with rags to obliterate mud and any spilled 
oil. Still protected by the rain storm they returned to camp 
and buried their oil. 

Doctors Kampschuur and Kramer distinguished them- 
selves in Belalau; Kampschuur by his hunting prowess and 
Kramer by a daring and successful operation. 

Kampschuur talked Seki into allowing him to hunt wild 
pigs, with gun and flashlight, one night a week accompanied 
by a guard. Pigs come out of the jungle at night to feed on 
rubber tree nuts and ubi kayu. The Japanese benefited by a 
cut of the meat and we benefited by pork sauce on our rice 
whenever Kampschuur was successful. Seki furnished the 
gun and ammunition. 

Kramer performed a successful major abdominal opera- 
tion on a 62-year-old Dutchman named J. A. M. van der 
Vossen, whom Kramer diagnosed as having an intestinal 
obstruction. The chances of surviving such an operation in 
our primitive circumstances were overwhelmingly negative. 


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l']! 

On the other hand, death was certain if the obstruction was 
not removed. Van der Vossen chose to gamble. 

I did not witness the operation but Kramer said he used 
a table knife and spoon. His scalpel was made from the 
table knife. The spoon’s use I don’t know. He made clips 
from fence wire to hold the intestines. Everything was 
boiled for two hours. Morphine was the only anesthetic. 
The operation was performed in the open air, on a bamboo 
table. Van der Vossen was walking around within two 
weeks. 

The hospital in Belalau was a bamboo shed with a palm 
roof, dirt floor and space on its benches for only forty 
patients; hence only critical cases could be admitted. Black- 
water fever, which derives its name from excessive bleeding 
through the kidneys, increased. Once chronic malaria 
changed into blackwater fever, death usually followed 
quickly, the crisis coming within forty-eight hours of the 
fever’s onset. Doctors said a victim had only a ten per cent 
chance of survival without blood transfusions. Internees 
were not physically able to donate blood. 

Librarian Harold Lawson was one of two men who sur- 
vived blackwater fever. However, the sickness left him with 
a revulsion for food. He would not eat. Several friends, my- 
self included, took turns feeding him. It was no mere 
mechanical process of spooning rice into his mouth, but of 
making him swallow it by pleading, cajolery or threats. 

“Open your mouth, Harold, and take this spoonful.” 

He was so weak his voice was scarcely audible. 

“I can’t.” 

“You’ve got to. If you don’t eat you won’t recover.” 

“I can’t.” 

“Please, Harold, just one swallow.” 

“Only one?” 

“That’s all.” 

He opened his mouth. The spoon went in. He held the 


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rice in his mouth a time, trying to chew. His jaws moved 
feebly, then he swallowed. I filled the spoon again, brought 
it to his mouth.” 

“No.” 

“Yes.” 

“You said only one.” 

“I know, but it wasn't a whole spoon. I put only a little 
in it so you could swallow easier.” 

I can t. 

“Say, are you throwing in the sponge? Show some guts 
and eat this.” 

He opened his mouth. Swallowed. Closed his eyes. 

I waited while he rested from the effort, then filled an- 
other spoon. 

“Harold. Wake up.” 

His eyes opened. 

“Open your mouth.” 

“No.” 

“Listen. I've got other things to do besides sitting here 
and playing nursemaid. If you can’t reciprocate a courtesy, 
the hell with you.” 

He opened his mouth. Swallowed and fell asleep. Poor 
guy. He couldn’t help it but unless he was forced to eat he 
would die like those who had no friends to bully them into 
eating. I joggled his shoulder. 

“Wake up, Harold.” 

He awakened. 

“Open your mouth.” 

“I can't.” 

“Eat this, damn you, or I’ll shove it down your throat.” 
He opened his mouth and swallowed. 

After a week of that kind of feeding Lawson’s body was 
strong enough to awaken his will. Once the will took hold 
the battle was nearly won. Lawson’s feeding was by no 
means unique. Other men were saved similarly. 
Black-bearded W. Probyn Allen, who had helped me 


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edit Camp News and each Christmas had read the English 
words of the gospel story sung by Father Bakker’s choir, was 
stricken with blackwater fever and carried into hospital 
March 22nd. He had weighed around 240 pounds when 
we first met in Palembang Jail. Now he weighed less than 
half of that. 

In 1942 we had gone partnerships in buying an old Dutch 
atlas. While I was visiting him in hospital the day after he 
was stricken he suddenly remembered the atlas. He told me 
where it was concealed next to his bunk. 

“We located a lot of places in that old atlas,” he said, 
“didn't we?” 

“We sure did.” 

“Best investment we made in camp.” 

I agreed it was and asked if he wanted anything done. 

“Nothing, thanks, except bring me some news when vou 
get it.” 

He was in pain but he did not betray it by word or action. 
He knew exactly how deadly was blackwater and that he had 
it but if any fears were in his mind he did not show them. 

I asked Hollweg, his doctor, about giving Allen a blood 
transfusion. 

“Where will we get the blood?” he asked. 

“How about mine?” 

“You haven't enough for yourself,” said Hollweg, “nor 
has anyone else.” 

Saturday morning I told Allen I would have some news 
for him the following day because a Japanese newspaper 
was being translated. 

“That's fine, Mac, I'll be expecting you tomorrow.” 

When “tomorrow” came it was Palm Sunday, March 
25th. I was walking into the hospital when an attendant 
told me Allen had just died. That was my first real shock 
of internment. I thought he was going to pull through. He 
was only 34. 

I sat down on the edge of the hospital bench, at the 


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place where Allen had lain and which now was vacant. 
Through memory tumbled the words of the poem he had 
written to his wife and published in Camp News at Christ- 
mas, 1942, more than three years before in Palembang Jail. 
The opening lines were: 

It needs no festal time to bring you to my mind. 

For every sunrise, every close of day, I find 

Your image by me, smiling, bidding me good cheer. 

Whispering our private nonsenses I love to hear. . . . 

Often he had talked of their country cottage in England 
and of the reunion they would have there when the war 
ended. Well, God had willed otherwise. The sixteen-line 
poem, I thought, would be an imperishable thing of Allen 
for his wife to treasure and in which to find comfort. It 
ended: 

Have faith, my love, although the night is dark, the day 

Will break, and peace and good will come to men at last. 

God bless you and keep you always. 

I walked back to my bunk and wrote a letter to his wife 
enclosing the poem. It was delivered after the war. 

The working party was enlarging our cemetery space in 
the rubber trees two hundred meters from camp and did 
not finish in time to dig more graves Sunday. By Monday 
another man had died, necessitating a double funeral. 

Friends of the two men lined up beside the coffins and 
Hammet read Church of England services. Then, flanked 
by guards, we struck out through the rubber trees. 

“It doesn’t seem possible that he has gone,” said Oosten. 
“He had so much life. I can still hear his voice. How it 
rang when he laughed.” 

I could still hear it too, as the coffins were lowered into 


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a double grave in the clearing. The trees were very high all 
around us but enough had been felled in this one spot so 
that a patch of sky was visible above us and sunlight 
streamed through to illuminate the reddish mounds of 
earth in the vast dimness of the rubber forest. 


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22 

Let’s Go Smuggling 


A new kind of hunger ravished our vitals in Bela- 
lau. In contrast to the sick gnawing of Muntok 
Jail the hunger was a healthy, ravenous, never 
satished appetite. 

In Muntok our stomach capacities had shrunk until they 
could not hold a full meal even when such a phenomenon 
occurred as it had on the birthday of Queen Wilhelmina, 
August 31, 1944. The kitchen, by careful husbanding and 
special appeals to the Chinese contractor, had amassed 
enough supplies to give every internee a full meal. Most of 
us were unable to eat it at one sitting. 

In Belalau our new lease on life expanded both our 
appetites and our stomachs. But we could never get enough 
to satisfy them. Ironically, although Belalau was in a land 
of plenty, our rations increased only slightly. The region 
abounded in rice, maize, vegetables, fruit, tobacco and 
coffee. Its streams were full of fish, its jungles teemed 
with game. However, we could get none of its bounty 
through the Japanese. There was no alternative but to get 
it ourselves. Three methods were possible; trading through 
guards, smuggling, or ubi raiding. 

All three enterprises were included under the general 
designation of black marketing; however, in prison camp 
that word did not have the connotation it has in ordinary 
society. For the most part black marketing was a highly 
honorable— and vitally necessary— profession. It saved more 
lives than doctors or medicine. 

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Inflation and acute goods shortages were disrupting the 
Japanese occupation economy. Chinese merchants in Loe- 
boek Linggau were turning paper money into goods. They 
would pay fantastic paper prices for cloth, watches, jewelry 
or silver money. Javanese and Malay farmers, unable for 
three years to obtain cloth, were in rags and anxious to trade 
farm produce for our clothing. 

Our Haiho guards, eager for money whether silver or 
paper, were ready-made middle men between us and the 
merchants or natives. The squeeze they exacted, however, 
was so high that a handful of daring men began slipping 
through the fence at night, with or without connivance of 
bribed Haihos, and traveling to native huts about three 
hours distant, to do their own bartering. These men were 
the smugglers. 

Ubi raiders were those who sneaked out at night to a 
nearby cultivated area known as a ladang and dug up ubi 
kayu. 

There was a flurry of trading, smuggling and ubi raiding 
within two weeks of our arrival at Belalau. Then Seki 
cracked down on the Haihos who, in turn, laid for the 
smugglers. Four were caught the first night. One of them, 
a big Indo-European named Bolle, was tied to a tree for 
sixteen hours and beaten at intervals by the same Haihos 
who had been trading with us. Then all four smugglers were 
turned over to the Kempeitai, who took them to jail in 
Loeboek Linggau where Bolle died. His three companions, 
hollow eyed and weak, returned to camp after fifty days. 

The Kempeitai assigned Malay field police to watch the 
native kampongs. Seki increased the guard and instructed 
them to shoot on sight. Seki's real coup d’etat on smuggling 
was not the increased guards or shooting orders but a barri- 
cade of felled trees around the camp. Crossing it without 
making a noise was ticklish and difficult. 

Our food situation once more became acute and some 
men reverted to catching rats. 


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Despite Seki's efforts, certain Haihos still traded with 
internees and a few prisoners found ways of getting out. 
Smuggling gangs were organized by men experienced in 
jungle work and willing to run any risk for food. Leaders of 
the most successful smuggling rings were a Dutchman 
named Anton Breet, the Ambonese Louhenapessie, the 
Indo-European policeman Max Breuer, and a husky native 
of the Celebes islands, named Mandang. I decided to be- 
come a smuggler myself. Mandang took me under his wing. 

* * * * 

Let's go on my first smuggling trip; 

Mandang’s inside men have spotted the position of each 
guard. The sergeant in charge of the night shift has just 
left the guardhouse, walked across the plank bridge over 
the creek and now is inspecting guard posts along the fence. 
Mandang has chosen to leave camp by wading up the creek, 
slipping under the fence, which spans it, then under the 
guards’ bridge, and climbing the opposite bank. In that way 
we avoid the tree barricade. We run the risk of a Haiho or 
Japanese leaving the guardhouse unexpectedly and spotting 
us in the water below the bridge but the odds are in our 
favor. Mandang knows by heart the guard routine. 

Four of us have been sitting by the creek waiting for the 
sergeant to cross the bridge. The four are Mandang, an 
Ambonese named Sitanala, the Indo-European Tempelers, 
who scaled the Muntok Jail wall, and myself. I am a tender- 
foot, the others jungle veterans. The sergeant clumps across 
the bridge and walks along the fence. Now is the time. 
Mandang steps into the creek and wades up it, keeping 
close to the bank. He ducks under the barbed wire. Sitanala 
follows, then me, and lastly, Tempelers. We are to keep 
this order throughout the trip. 

The time is shortly after 7 p.m. The moon has not yet 
risen and thunderclouds are beginning to blanket the 


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heavens; however, the quality of darkness still permits us 
vision of shapes and obstacles. 

We move slowly, feeling with our bare toes for firm foot- 
ing. To fall or splash would arouse Haihos in the guard- 
house. Tm under the fence now and, straightening, see 
Sitanala going under the bridge. He waits for me in its 
darker shadow. When I arrive he crosses the creek in the 
shadow of the bridge. I follow. He snakes up the bank and 
disappears into bushes. I belly after him, wishing I could 
move with his silent suppleness. We rise to hands and 
knees, moving very slowly and parting the bushes with our 
hands until we are in the rubber trees, then we stand erect. 

No words are spoken. Sitanala directs me with his hands 
to hold onto the knapsack on his back. Behind me I feel 
Tempelers holding onto mine. Night is Stygian in the rub- 
ber forest. I am blind. So is our leader Mandang but he 
does not need to see. His toes are his eyes. They explore 
the ground, tell him where to step. He inches forward; we 
follow in lock step, placing our feet where his have been, 
striving to move without breaking twigs or dead branches. 
Every sound we make is magnified by our straining ears and 
sends little waves of alarm along tingling nerves. Over and 
over I repeat to myself, 

'‘Quiet. Quiet. TTie Japs will hear." 

Because of the location of Japanese occupied buildings, 
the undergrowth choked terrain of the rubber estate and 
surrounding jungle, and certain geographical bottlenecks 
caused by swamps, deep streams and steep hillsides, there 
are only three possible routes to our destination. The one 
we are using tonight is the shortest because for approxi- 
mately two kilometers it utilizes the road to the Women’s 
Camp instead of jungle or rubber tree trail. A path extends 
from the guard's footbridge to the road on this side of the 
creek but it is too likely to be patrolled this time of night 
so we cross it, go farther into the rubber, then travel parallel 


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to the path until we reach the road. Although the distance 
is short it takes an hour of painfully slow progress to cover 
it because we are still within earshot of Japanese quarters. 

We reach the road. Sitanala’s hands tell me to wait. He 
and Mandang explore along the road in opposite directions, 
stopping every few feet to listen. They return. All clear. We 
sit down and put on our rubber shoes. Mine are a pair I 
bought just before being captured and have preserved by 
wearing only on special occasions, like funerals or tonight. 
The road is stony. Mandang whispers, 

'‘Are you ready, Mac?" 

“Yes." 

“We start. Walk fast. We lost much time." 

They walk so fast I find it difficult to keep up. We no 
longer cling to each other. I follow by ear, listening to the 
scuffling pad, pad of their feet. Occasionally one of us acci- 
dentally kicks a stone. It cracks sharply against other stones. 
Mandang halts, commands more caution and resumes his 
breakneck pace. 

We leave the road and follow a steep, slippery trail. I go 
up, using my hands to keep from sliding back. At the top 
we again intersect the road. The trail is a shortcut. 

Lightning abruptly rips the night. Thunder claps and, 
while I'm reswallowing my heart, rain hits us as though 
thrown from a bucket. Ten minutes later it stops. Mandang 
has slowed to a crawl. He is feeling along the road edge. He 
halts, whispers my name, cups his mouth to my ear and says, 

“A sentry post is just ahead. We are near the Women’s 
Camp. Now we leave the road and go around the camp." 

Now comes another hazardous leg of the journey. We 
must circle the Women’s Camp by clambering up a tree 
covered hillside to a long unused trail above the camp. 
Mandang leads us off the road and we start climbing, again 
clinging to each other’s knapsacks. We reach the old trail. 
My legs feel knee high grass or weeds. We halt. Sitanala 
puts his lips to my ear. 


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“Straight below is the Women’s Camp, close enough 
for guards to hear. We must climb over a fallen tree. I will 
guide your feet. Take care.” 

Below us, as in a black void, I see pinpoints of light 
marking the Women’s Camp. 

Sitanala maneuvers his way across the tree. My exploring 
hands, following Sitanala’s passage, feel a waist high tree 
trunk. Lower down, my feet touch branches and above is 
another branch, as if the tree forks near me. I wriggle be- 
tween the two. Sitanala’s hands guide one of my feet and 
place it on a branch which gives me a step up and over an- 
other tree trunk. Then I am across. 

I inch forward a few paces to make room for Tempelers 
behind me. My face bangs against another tree. Constella- 
tions of pain blaze in my eyes. My nose feels smashed flat. 
Mandang, hearing the thud, seizes my arm and pulls me 
down to my knees. We duck under a tree that lies across the 
trail at head height. 

Slowly the night becomes lighter. Objects distinguish 
themselves as darker masses in the darkness. Mandang 
orders a halt. We listen. While we stand, straining our ears, 
the moon comes out. In the trees we can not see it but the 
gloom lessens. We start forward, negotiate another fallen 
tree, pick up speed for a time but gradually slow to a crawl. 
Somewhere close, Mandang knows, is a wooden footbridge 
over a little stream. Planks are missing from the approach 
on this side so that we must take a long, almost leaping, 
stride, from earth to bridge. His sense of timing tells him 
the bridge should be near but his toes cannot find the 
jumping off place. We keep going forward, first one foot 
feeling, then the other . . . 

Suddenly Mandang starts stamping and muttering curses. 
Sitanala jumps as though shot and slaps at his legs. I lose 
my balance, fall forward and the next second my hands and 
arms are stung with electric fire. Ants. Myriads of vicious, 
biting, stinging, flesh piercing ants. We have walked into 


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a bed of them. Mandang's bare feet — he removed his shoes 
when we left the road— felt them first; Sitanala, not until 
they swarmed over his shoe tops, while I reached them first 
with my hands. Tempelers, amply warned, jumps back to 
safety. Retreating likewise I beat, slap and rub the ants 
from my hands and arms. Mandang reverses our course. 
There had been no ant bed on the trail when he last traveled 
it. We have taken a wrong fork. Backtracking, he finds the 
correct fork and continues along it to the foot bridge. We 
each take a long, blind stride, to clear the missing plank, 
then step cautiously, feeling for loose planks or holes. 

The trail swings sharply left, dips downhill. I hear running 
water and see a patch of moonlight ahead. We emerge from 
the gloom of the trees onto a bridge which has not been 
used for a long time. Missing planks leave treacherous holes. 
Mandang speaks aloud for the first time since leaving camp. 

“Sit down. Let us smoke.” 

Tempelers laughs loudly. 

“Now we can talk. We are past danger.” 

“We are far from the Women's Camp,” says Mandang. 
“No one can hear us here.” 

In the moonlight we examine each other for leeches 
which infest the trail, lying in wait on foliage for passing 
prey. Dark smears on our legs, arms or necks disclose where 
the repulsive, carnivorous worms have embedded themselves 
to suck our blood. Removing them with thumb and fore- 
finger is not easy. Pulled from the skin they stick to fingers. 
We flip them off, crushing them on the wood of the bridge. 

Uneasily I keep looking around. Sensing my thoughts, 
Mandang says, 

“No Japanese come this far at night. They are afraid of 
tigers and wild pigs.” 

“Are there tigers here?” 

“I am not sure but the Japanese and Haihos think so. 
There are many pigs. Perhaps we will see some. I would 


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rather meet a tiger than a mother pig with young. The tiger 
will run away but the pig might charge.” 

We roll nipa leaf cigarets and smoke. The moon rides 
just above the tree tops, bathing the bridge with light and 
silvering the stream on either side. We are relaxed and feel 
an exuberant thrill of freedom. Around us are no fences 
or walls or guards. Our companions are trees, a running 
stream, forest noises and insects which glow suddenly in the 
gloom and sometimes startle me because they look so much 
like distant flashlights. 

My skin crawls momentarily as I look across the stream 
into two gleaming eyes, or what I think are eyes. They dis- 
appear. I relax again. 

Our cigarets smoked, we leave the bridge and step once 
more into darkness. The trail dips into a gully. Trees and 
bushes close over our heads and we are once more blind, 
holding onto each other’s sacks, moving slowly. 

“We are coming to a narrow bridge,” says Mandang. 

I can hear his feet tapping the ground, feeling, then a 
hollow thump. I move closer to Sitanala so that our bodies 
are practically one as I try to follow the movement of his 
feet. Tempelers similarly is glued to me. I feel wood, hear 
a hollow sound. Then Mandang falls heavily, plunging 
through a rotten board. Such falls can break a leg. His 
breath hisses in pain as he drags his leg out of the hole. We 
wait while he recovers, then continue on. 

I slip and land flat on my back. Tempelers, like a cat, 
jumps over me but loses his balance and thuds to the 
ground. 

Mandang halts, takes a torch of resinous wood from his 
knapsack and lights it with three matches struck simulta- 
neously. The matches I have saved since buying them in 
1942. The torch flares, lighting a trail slimy underfoot, criss- 
crossed with fallen limbs and overhung with giant ferns. 

“Here it is safe for lights,” says Mandang. He walks, fan- 


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284 

ning the torch by waving it vigorously so it will stay alight. 
We can see enough to walk rapidly. 

We emerge from the gully onto a flat, hard, giassless 
surface. Instead of vines or weeds the undergrowth on 
either side of what appears once to have been a road is 
sparse bushes, like individual saplings without branches. 
Mandang extinguishes the torch. 

‘'Now we must be careful, Mac. Here is danger. Ahead is 
the main road. If anything happens stand still. Don't 
move.” 

We creep along, moving slightly uphill. Far ahead my 
straining eyes discern a greyness through the trees. The 
edge of the rubber. 

Crash! My heart flipflops. Moving figures smash through 
the brush at us. We're caught! Smart Japanese have been 
lying at the rubber edge waiting. Run! But Mandang's 
orders were to stand still. I freeze. Why don't they flash 
lights on us? Other sounds become audible in the uproar of 
trampling brush. Grunts. More grunts. Sitanala speaks. 

“Pigs. Not Japs. Wild pigs.” 

The relief is comic. We can hear each other's breathing. 
Wordlessly we sit down while pounding pulses quiet. After 
a while Mandang rises and we creep toward the grey light. 
Soon we are at the edge of the rubber, but ahead are bushes, 
thick and higher than our heads. Mandang tells us to wait. 
He wriggles through the bushes silently as a Red Indian of 
fiction. After a long time a faint whistle sounds. 

Tempelers now leads. We follow him through the bushes 
but not with Mandang's stealth. I struggle with embracing 
tendrils. Sometimes it seems I'm hopelessly tangled. Finally 
we are through into clear moonlight. Directly in front of us 
is the road. Almost invisible at our feet is a deep, narrow, 
grass-concealed ditch. A long step takes me across. Mandang 
hisses, 

“Back! Into the ditch!” 

Tempelers and Sitanala throw themselves into the weeds. 


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roll into the ditch. I likewise. And Mandang. As I roll into 
the ditch I find myself on the shoulders of Sitanala. That 
saves me from a rough tumble because the ditch is shoulder 
high. 

“Listen/’ says Mandang. 

A rumbling sounds. Unmistakably a motor vehicle. Man- 
dang’s keen ears detected the noise before any of us. An- 
other moment and headlights flood the road. We crouch 
too low to see anything. Sounds like a truck. It passes with 
a rumble and rattle. We raise our heads only to duck again. 
Another truck. And another. Mandang tears handfuls of 
long grass, holds it above his head and peers over the ditch 
top. A truck convoy. 

We wait a considerable time before crawling from the 
ditch. Mandang leads. Instead of scuttling across the road, 
however, he walks leisurely along it. We follow in single 
file. He turns, points to a board spanning a deep ditch on 
the other side of the road, balances himself across the 
board while we follow one by one and walk along a foot- 
path to a steeply roofed building. It is the first house in 
the Javanese settlement known as Petanahan. We walk 
around it and continue deeper into the cultivated area. 
Scattered, one-story houses stand out sharply on the moon- 
bathed land. We slide down one side of a deep ravine, 
scramble up the other and find ourselves in a patch of ubi 
kayu, the stalks higher than our heads. 

“Wait,” says Mandang. 

He and Tempelers disappear. 

Presently a whistle sounds beyond the ubi kayu. We 
follow it, emerge beside a house. Mandang and Tempelers 
are talking to a small Javanese man in white shorts and 
dark jacket. Beside him is an even smaller woman, clad in 
a sarong. The little man leads us away from the house into 
a field of maize. We pick our way between the rows until 
we come to a small clearing in the middle of the field where 
grow a few papaya trees. This is our trading rendezvous. It 


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is safer than the house because police sometimes pay sur- 
prise night calls at Petanahan. 

The farmer leaves us there, squatting on the soft earth 
so our heads are below the maize tops, and soon reappears 
with a second man. They are carrying straw mats which 
they spread on the ground. Mandang introduces me. The 
first man is named Barto and the second is his son, Radi. 
Mandang tells them I am an American. 

“Selamat, Tuan American,” they greet me. 

“Selamat,” I reply. 

We all sit, cross-legged, on the mats. Linguist Mandang 
converses with them in their native Javanese. Radi lays a 
small, flat tin on the mat in front of me. Tobacco and nipa 
leaves. I roll a long, fat cigaret and light it with a match to 
astound Radi and Barto. It does. Matches they have not 
seen since the war began. 

Radi asks me, in Malay, how far it is to America. 

My guess is 15,000 kilometers.* 

His mind can not grasp such a distance. I translate it into 
days of travel by steamboat. Thirty days. He murmurs in- 
credulously. 

Sitanala whispers to me occasional translated tidbits from 
Barto’s words to Mandang. Barto says the head man of 
Petanahan, a man named Mangoen, was informed by the 
Japanese, when they came to confiscate more rice, that the 
war would end this year for certain. The price of rice in 
Loeboek Linggau now is 400 guilders a kaling. A kaling is 
the standard of bulk measurement among colonists. It is 
the amount contained in a kerosene tin, between 15 and 16 
kilograms (33 to 35.2 pounds).** Tobacco prices also are 
sky high— five guilders a lempeng, an amount about the 
size of a shredded wheat biscuit, and weighing about forty 
grams. Petanahan is full of fever and there is no quinine. 
Have we any quinine? Radi’s friend Ali has a wife with a 

* 1 kilometer = .62 of a mile. 1 mile =1.6 kilometer. 

** 1 kilogram = 2.2 pounds. 


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sore leg. Have we medicine? I promise to bring medicine 
next time. 

Barto’s wife appears bearing food. Hot rice, small fried 
fish and ubi chips and two vegetables I do not recognize. 
Radi says it is the first fish they have had in moons. 

Rice is ladled from the central dish onto banana leaves 
and passed to us. I take an ubi chip with my left hand and 
convey it to my mouth. Radi speaks sharply. 

I have committed a crude faux pas. Eating with the left 
hand is unclean. Only the right hand can convey food to 
the mouth. Mandang, Tempelers and Sitanala make voluble 
excuses for my barbarity, explain that Americans are ig- 
norant of table manners. I am pardoned. 

By mistake I take too much hot pepper sauce. My mouth 
catches fire, my eyes and nose run and I sneeze and hiccup. 
Tempelers laughs uproariously. Barto and Radi grin. Mrs. 
Barto comes with hot coffee. Barto pours it into china cups. 
We light cigarets and the business of trading begins. 

“Show him your goods," Mandang tells me. 

From my homemade knapsack of rice sacking I draw 
precious clothing Eric and I have acquired and saved. Two 
pairs of good shorts, a shirt and one of the ties I found in 
Palembang Jail. I brought the tie on a hunch. Radi seizes it 
for his own, not permitting it to be placed with the shorts 
and shirt for which Barto will bargain. 

Mandang, Barto and Radi haggle politely in Javanese. 
While they talk the round moon drifts across the sky from 
one side of the papaya trees to the other. At last Mandang 
tells me, 

“Barto will give you a kaling of red rice for your things. 
Radi will give two kilograms for the tie. He wants the tie 
as a waist sash for his sarong. Do you agree?" 

I agree. It is a good bargain. 

Trading resumes as Mandang and Tempelers dispose of 
their own goods. Barto's wife leaves to find Radi’s friend 
Ali. Ali comes and the three men carry kalings of rice and 


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288 BY EASTERN WINDOWS 

maize from their hiding places to us. My knapsack holds 
just one kaling of rice. 

When trading is finished, the goods exchanged and paid 
for, I remind Radi he still owes me two kilograms for the 
tie. Radi says he will pay me next trip. We have traded 
them out of all their rice. In fact he would like to borrow 
back a kilogram of rice for his meal next day. Mandang says 
Radi evidently is telling the truth and for the sake of future 
good will I should lend him the kilogram. With a coconut 
shell we measure the amount, give it back to Radi. Now he 
owes me three kilograms. I have an initating hunch he’ll 
never pay. 

We help each other to shoulder our loads. Mine is the 
lightest, 15 kilograms (33 pounds). I volunteer to carry 
more because Mandang is bent under 35 kilograms (77 
pounds) but he advises me to walk for an hour and then 
decide whether my load shall be increased. Sitanala and 
Tempelers have around 25 kilograms each. We have not 
walked a kilometer before I am thankful my 15 kilograms 
is not more. I begin to realize how much strength I have 
lost. 

Down the ravine we slide and crawl up the other side on 
hands and knees. Successfully I negotiate the first roadside 
ditch but disaster overtakes me on the second. I take the 
necessary long stride but it is not long enough. The load 
shortens my step and down I tumble. My chest strikes the 
opposite side and the 15 kilograms on my back combines 
with the blow to punch every breath of air from my lungs. 
Stunned and gasping I lie wedged in the bottom of the 
ditch. My companions drop their loads to extricate me, 
shove me into the bushes and crawl in themselves. Now we 
are safely oflE the road. 

Every place that had given us difficulty enroute to Feta- 
nahan is tougher returning, loaded. I dread falling, not only 
because of the noise, but because of the effort to rise again 
with a dead weight on my back. 


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We ignite the torch and its smoky flare helps us up the 
long, tunnel-like gully. At the top we extinguish the torch. 
Moonlight helps us across the crucial fallen trees above the 
Women’s Camp. We strike the road. This is the last lap. 
We hurry to make up for lost time. Sweat soaks me and 
stings my eyes. 

The moon is too high for us to chance slipping into camp 
via the creek behind the guardhouse. Behind the hospital 
is a break in the tree barrier through which coffins are car- 
ried to the cemetery. A sentry box is there but the sentry 
has a habit of leaving it shortly before he is to be relieved. 
Instead of waiting for his relief to arrive at the box he walks 
along the fence to meet him, thus gaining a few minutes 
on quitting time. The guards will change at 5 a.m. Man- 
dang’s watch says 4:15. 

To reach the banier break we must pass directly behind 
Seki’s house where he and his officers are sleeping. Once at 
the barrier we must lie and listen for the sentry to stir in 
his box and walk away toward the main gate. After that we 
will have about three minutes to slip through the opening, 
reach the fence, get through it with our loads and out of 
sight. 

We leave the road and start through the trees around 
Seki’s house. We make or break from here in. Either we get 
through, or get caught and face the music. To my nervous 
ears our footsteps sound like men with iron feet walking on 
broken glass. Seki must be drugged to sleep through such 
noise. And if he’s drugged the Haiho sentry must be dead. 
Any second now there should be a yell and a shot and run- 
ning footsteps. 

We are crouching outside the barrier, waiting, waiting, 
waiting. After an interminable time we hear a scuffle of feet 
in the sentry box. The guard clears his throat and spits, 
rattles his rifle, hums a few bars of a Malay tune, steps 
from the box and begins his illicit stroll to the front gate, 
seventy-five feet away. 


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290 

This is the payoff. Mandang rises. We rise. Mandang 
heads for the fence. We follow. Fm so nervous my stomach 
is turning somersaults, my heart is doing the high hurdles 
and the hair of my neck is sending off sparks. How can the 
guard not hear us? 

We're at the fence. Moonlight floods it like a giant 
searchlight. How can the guard not see us? This is how a 
convict must feel when he's going over the wall. Only we're 
going in not out. Mandang shucks his knapsack like a lizard 
shedding its skin, seizes a strand of barbed wire and raises 
it, depresses another strand with his foot. Sitanala is through. 
I'm through. Mandang and Tempelers hoist their loads over 
the top, drop them into our arms. We set them on the 
ground, spread the barbed wire strands for Mandang and 
Tempelers. They're through. We pick up our loads and run 
across the moonlit expanse for the hospital doorway, duck 
into its shadow and stop, panting. Seconds later a scuffling 
in the box announces the five o'clock sentry has arrived. 

A curious attendant looks us over. He chuckles, 

‘Ten per cent commission for using hospital hiding 
facilities." 

We separate and go to our respective blocks. 

Eric had been up for an hour keeping a can of tea warm 
on a tiny fire. 

“I was beginning to worry," he said. “It's awfully close 
to roll call." 

I drank the tea. It was warm and stimulating. 

“Better get out of those clothes," Eric said. “You look 
a mess." 

I was daubed with mud. Stripping, I waded into the 
creek to wash and pull off leeches. Even after removing them 
blood continued to well, for a while, in a little trickle mark- 
ing where each leech had clung. 

When I returned Eric had the rice emptied into small 
sacks and stowed away in our rat-proof tin trunk, another 


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LETS GO SMUGGLING 291 

treasure from Palembang Jail. We smoked Radi’s tobacco 
and talked. I was still keyed up by the nervous tension of 
the trip and its success. After roll call I lay down and tried 
to sleep. Too much noise. I got up. 

‘‘Let’s have some rice,” I suggested to Eric. 

“Right.” 

We borrowed a kuali, a heavy iron cooking vessel reminis- 
cent of a gold pan, and measured into it 400 grams of rice. 
We gloated over the beauty of the red, hill rice. Unlike the 
white, polished rice of camp rations the red rice was only 
partially husked and had a nutty flavor. We decided to cook 
400 grams a day. Fifteen kilograms would last 37 days. That 
would do much toward rebuilding our strength. Meanwhile, 
we would acquire goods for another smuggling trip. 

As our rice stocks dwindled we cast around camp for goods 
to barter on a percentage basis. That required estimating 
the value of any article to within a kilogram. Smuggling 
was pure gamble. My first trip had been a success but the 
next might not be. Clothing owners were reluctant to share 
risks with a smuggler— splitting the profits if his trip suc- 
ceeded and losing if he was caught or otherwise failed. They 
preferred to sell outright for a standard price— three to five 
kilograms on the spot for a pair of shorts— and let the smug- 
gler take all the risks— both on his investment and on his 
neck. I decided to get a customer who would trust me and 
be willing to lose if I lost. 

“Get cloth, thread and silver guilders,” I told Bishop 
Mekkelholt, “and we’ll do business on a fifty-fifty basis. If 
the trip is successful we split. If not, we both lose.” 

“Agreed,” said the Bishop. 

He put a Brother to work cutting up white cassocks and 
sewing them into shorts of a correct size for small statured 
Javanese. Another Brother laboriously unraveled socks and 
sweaters for thread and yarn to sell to Javanese women. 

Handing me a wide red satin sash, such as bishops wear 
with their cassocks, he commented. 


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“One of the Javanese wives might like this." 

On my second trip I accompanied another smuggling 
king, former policeman Max Breuer and his three men. 
There was no moon. We shipped through the fence behind 
the kitchen, where wood cutters had made a passage through 
the tree barrier. On striking the road we sat down in the 
darkness and donned our shoes. 

At Petanahan we went to the house of Ali, for whose wife 
I had brought medicine and a bandage for her ulcerated 
leg. 

A wick burning in a dish of palm oil was the only illu- 
mination in Ali’s hut. We palavered in Malay. Ali and his 
wife wanted goods but they had no rice or maize to trade. 
They said the Japanese had taken everything. Ali's house 
was of bamboo slats chinked with mud. It had a thatched 
roof and dirt floor. We sat on wooden stools around the 
table in the light of the palm oil lamp. 

Bishop Mekkelholt had asked me to get a few eggs for 
one of his sick priests. 

“Even if they are very expensive, get them," Bishop 
Mekkelholt had said, “because he is dying." 

Mrs. Ali said she would sell two eggs for one silver guilder 
—fifty cents an egg. Fantastic as was the price I bought two, 
reflecting that Mrs. Ali was not very grateful for the medi- 
cine I had brought her. 

We moved to the house of Karman. He was prosperous 
and had been expecting Breuer. Karman’s house was two 
stories high. A ladder led to the upper floor where we ate 
and bargained in whispers. Mrs. Karman and several other 
women appeared. I reached in the knapsack for the crimson 
sash of Bishop Mekkelholt. That would widen their eyes! 
The sash wasn't there. I turned the sack inside out. Still no 
sash. The horrid truth chilled me. It had fallen out when 
I took my shoes from the sack when we reached the road 
outside camp. 

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fifty kilos. There was none left for me and my goods, except 
a bottle of palm oil Mrs. Karman gave me for a ball of 
thread. 

I packed the bottle and the two eggs into twelve kilo- 
grams of rice I agreed to pack back for Brener. Before en- 
tering camp we searched in vain for the sash. For me the 
trip was a failure. I had lost the sash, worth many kilo- 
grams, and gotten only two eggs and a small bottle of palm 
oil. 

Next morning a native bullock herder found the sash, 
brought it to Seki's office. Seki knew it had come from our 
camp but could prove nothing. However, the find disclosed 
our exit and it was bottled up. Smuggling became more 
difficult. 

My third trip was with Mandang again. 

“We must fix a Haiho,” Mandang decreed, “it is too 
dangerous otherwise.” 

My share of the “fix” was one towel and a bar of soap, 
costing me five kilograms of rice to purchase in camp. 
Haihos worked around the clock in twelve hour shifts, 
alternating hours off and on sentry post duty. For example 
the Haiho going on fence guard duty at 6 p.m. would be 
relieved at 7 p.m., spend the next hour in the guardhouse 
and go back to the sentry post at 8 o’clock. And so on 
through the night until 6 a.m. The Haiho we bribed agreed 
not to be at a certain spot on the fence at 6:30 p.m. and 
again at 4: 30 a.m. Roll calls were at 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. 

At 6:30 P.M., just after roll call and before dark, we wrig- 
gled through the fence, gingerly picked our way across the 
barrier of fallen trees and ducked into the rubber. We took 
a different route. Although longer, it avoided places we 
feared might be watched not only by Seki’s men but by 
other Haihos who would demand a cut and “capture” us 
if we refused. We struggled through a knee deep morass, 
gained a trail and head^ for the main road. 


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A heavy rainstorm drenched us. We plodded on, slipping, 
falling, miserable. We reached the main road after dark, at 
a point about four kilometers from Petanahan. Mandang 
depended on his keen ears to warn us of approaching traffic 
in time to jump off the road. None came. The rain stung 
our flesh like hail. We spied some banana trees, cut off 
leaves and held them over our heads as shields. At Petana- 
han we went directly to the house of Mangoen, the head 
man. 

Mangoen’s house was more a hall with back room and 
upper story for living quarters. The hall was a gathering 
place for his people. Seventy Javanese farmers and their 
families were scattered over the colony of Petanahan. Man- 
goen refined palm oil and cured tobacco, in addition to 
farming. 

My trading goods totaled three pairs of shorts, one under- 
shirt, one white polo shirt, one ball of black wool yarn 
(made from a sweater), two rolls of white thread (made 
from the Bishop’s socks ) , two silver guilders and two pieces 
of white muslin cloth each eighteen feet long and one foot 
wide. Mrs. Mangoen took the thread and cloth and three 
of Mangoen’s friends took the shorts. For my goods I re- 
ceived seventeen kilograms of maize, two kilograms of rice, 
two beer bottles of palm oil and two live chickens. If kam- 
pong chickens are carried by their feet, head down, they 
do not squawk. 

The return trip was easier because my legs and back were 
stronger. My nerves never got any stronger though. I was 
always scared going through the fence. Mandang never be- 
trayed fear of anything. He had nerves of steel. 

We had started the return trip too late. Although we 
walked at top speed, without a single stop for rest, dawn 
was lighting the world when we reached the barrier. It was 
after 5 a.m., too late for our fixed Haiho. Another guard 
would be on duty. We would have to risk getting in on our 
own. 


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Mandang shed his load and told us to wait while he ex- 
plored. He crept along the barricade, peeking through and 
listening. Dawn rapidly became full daylight. We heard the 
bell clang for 5:30 a.m. tea. That was when we filled our 
drinking bottles for the day. More time passed. No Man- 
dang. A single clang of the bell warned that roll call was 
about to ring. 

Holy Mackerel! We would have to ditch our loads— and 
my chickens— and make a break for it. 

Mandang suddenly materialized. He seized his sack, threw 
it over his shoulder and started along the barrier at a dog 
trot. At a certain place he turned and started across. We 
followed, over tree trunks and big limbs. Strangely, there 
were no small dead branches to break and pop and crackle 
underfoot. We crossed, ran for the fence. On the other side 
were three of Mandang’s friends. They held the wire strands 
apart and grabbed our loads. Then we went through. 

The roll call bell clanged. I ran to my block, jumped up 
onto my mat and pulled a blanket over my muddy clothing. 
The block leader changed his roster to include me as a sick 
man. For roll call, well men lined up outside the block and 
sick men lay in their beds. Japanese guards counted inside 
and outside simultaneously so there could be no switching 
for cover up purposes. I was safe. 

Eric came in after roll call. He said, 

“Don’t give me heart failure like that again.” 

“My heart’s still out there on the fence,” I said. 

Eric roasted some ubi he had brought back from a raid 
while I was at Petanahan. I did the trading with natives 
because I knew some Malay, while Eric, who was huskier 
and could carry bigger loads, sneaked out to a nearby cul- 
tivated area and dug ubi, which was harder to carry. 

Seven kilograms of maize were required to pay my share 
of our debts and the new fix required to get in that morn- 
ing. Mandang’s inside pals had been watching the fence. 
When they spotted him on the other side of the barrier 


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they went to work. The guard was bribed to stand where 
he was and talk to them while two others found the best 
place for us to come through. Mandang then had done a 
quick but thorough job of removing small dead branches to 
lessen the noise of our passage at the selected place. 

Later that morning I delivered Bishop Mekkelholt his 
share, including one of the chickens. The other chicken 
Eric and I planned to fatten and eat on the Fourth of July. 

“You'd better say a few prayers of thanksgiving that we 
got in," I told the Bishop. “We nearly didn’t make it." 

He laughed. 

“I already have," he said. “In fact I offered Mass this 
morning for the success of your black market expedition.” 

That established a custom. Whenever we went out smug- 
gling or ubi raiding Bishop Mekkelholt offered a Mass for 
our safe return. 

We named our chicken Oscar and assiduously went about 
the business of fattening him for a feast July 4th and 
guarding him from the hazards of camp life. We fed him 
raw and cooked maize and rice, acquired in our smuggling 
deals, and grubs we unearthed ourselves around camp. Noth- 
ing was too good or too much trouble for Oscar. We guarded 
him zealously by day and at night staked him under our 
sleeping bench. We determined to make the Fourth of 
July, 1945, in Belalau as memorable an event as had been 
the Fourth of July, 1942, in Palembang Jail. Every year, 
and this was our fourth Independence Day in captivity, 
Eric and I had managed to stage some kind of celebra- 
tion. 

The first one, July 4, 1942, in Palembang Jail had been a 
red letter day to which our Dutch and British friends con- 
tributed. Beissel had cooked the dinner for ten. Around the 
table had been the two honored American guests, Eric and 
I; my two shipwreck mates Oosten and Colijn, my Camp 
News partner Allen, Doc West, Van der Vliet who was 


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then Camp Leader, Dr. Hollweg who amazed us by produc- 
ing a fifth of gin, Camp Poet Curran-Sharp and Beissel 
himself. 

Standing solemnly with upraised tin cups containing In- 
dependence Day gin rickeys we had drunk a toast proposed 
by Allen: 

‘Gentlemen, I give you the President of the United 
States of America, Queen Wilhelmina and King George of 
England.” 

Three years later, on July 4, 1945, in Belalau, Eric and I 
raised two tin cups filled with coffee, waved them over 
Oscar, who lay beautifully fried in an iron skillet, and 
toasted our good luck in being alive. We said: 

“Here's how.” 

And drank. 

Allen, Colijn and Curran-Sharp were dead. West was 
gone, taken away by the Japanese. We hoped he was still 
alive. Van der Vliet and Beissel were mere private citizens 
of the camp, having long since been succeeded as Leader 
and Chief Cook respectively. With Hollweg we rarely 
spoke. Beissel and Oosten remembered the day and brought 
us a present of tobacco. 

I wished that Herbert Smallwood of the handlebar 
moustache was still around to trumpet the Star Spangled 
Banner as he did on July 4, 1943. I wondered why Christ- 
mas and Independence Day meant so much more to me in 
captivity. 

Oscar was our first and last chicken dinner of internment. 
During ensuing months smuggling became more difficult 
and dangerous. Frequently we returned empty handed. Let’s 
go on the trip that finished Petanahan: 

Again Mandang, Sitanala, Tempelers and I have taken 
the shortest but most dangerous route, the same one we 
took on my first trip. As on previous journeys we hurry 
along the road, circle the Women’s Camp, negotiate the 


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fallen trees and rest for awhile on the bridge to smoke and 
pull leeches from our hides. Tonight there is no moon, the 
sky is overcast and, except for the road, progress has been 
painfully slow. 

Tempelers suggests we light the torches. Mandang de- 
murs, explaining, 

“I don’t feel good.” 

That’s his way of saying he has a hunch there is danger 
ahead. We respect his hunches. 

“Mac,” says Mandang, “change places with Sitanala and 
hang onto me. No falling in the gully. We must go slow 
and quiet. And no lights.” 

Never have I gone down the steep gully without slipping 
and falling at least once. Mandang removes his shoes. We 
do likewise. 

“Okay,” says Mandang, starting. 

“Okay,” we echo and begin moving. 

I try to follow Mandang’s feet with my feet. He takes 
short, solid steps. At every step his foot seems to become 
rooted to the ground. Only once has he ever fallen when I 
was along and that was when a bridge plank broke beneath 
his weight. My eyes ache from trying to see where sight 
is impossible. I close them. The quality of darkness is not 
changed whether my eyes are open or closed. It is like the 
time my lamp went out in a lead-silver mine where I worked 
summers while going to college. I had to feel my way for 
1 200 feet back to a pumping station where I had left my can 
of fresh carbide fuel for the lamp. The gully’s darkness is 
like that, only more treacherous. 

Tempelers, bringing up the rear, slips, thuds down strik- 
ing Sitanala, who is knocked down and bangs into me. 
Down I go, striking Mandang, but he stands like a rock. 
Struggling to my feet I slip and fall into a water filled hole 
beside the trail. Tempelers is swearing in a shrill whisper 
and saying his ankle must be broken. 

“Take it easy,” Mandang says. “Be quiet. We will wait.” 


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We untangle ourselves, continue. My right hip feels as 
though a sledge hammer had struck it. 

After a century or two we are out of the gully and onto 
the flat, near the main road. We halt, listen and listen and 
listen. Then listen some more. If ears could stretch, mine 
would be sweeping the air in all directions like the antennae 
of a sightless bug. 

This is where the wild pigs frightened us before. The 
trail we are on is broad and slippery and ends at the road a 
few hundred feet away. Across the road is Petanahan. We 
inch forward, feeling with our bare toes before putting down 
our weight, avoiding twigs and branches. Mandang moves 
off the trail into the bushes— we following— and halts. At 
that instant it happens. 

The trail is a blaze of light. We freeze at the edge of the 
trees. The lights do not move to sweep the terrain but re- 
main stationary, pointing along the trail. The sudden growl 
of an engine starter and roar of a motor indicate that the 
lights are headlights of a truck parked on the trail where it 
intersects the road. It is backing onto the road. As it turns 
the headlights sweep us but our motionless figures probably 
blend with the trees, for nothing happens. The truck moves 
only a short distance along the road and halts. Voices 
sound, sharp staccato Japanese voices. Flashlights dart 
hither and thither, occasionally flashing in our direction but 
it is apparent they are not looking for us and do not suspect 
our presence. 

Mandang’s hunch had been correct. Had we come down 
that gully waving a torch, or been even seconds slower leav- 
ing the trail, we would have been pinioned in those head- 
lights. 

What’s going on? A raid on Petanahan? 

Another pair of headlights flash on. Another motor 
sounds. More voices, a rattle as of bayonets being sheathed 
or unsheathed. The vehicles grind into gear and move, 
gather speed, disappear. 


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We remain motionless until my legs go numb from the 
cramp of holding them rigid. Finally Mandang sits down. 
We too. Time drags. At last Mandang and Tempelers creep 
to the road. Another long time, then a whistle. Sitanala and 
I go. Mandang and Tempelers are in the ditch. They climb 
out. We leap the ditch, hurry across the road and the other 
ditch, strike across the fields to the ravine near Barto’s. We 
wait while Mandang calls on Barto. He returns to say Mrs. 
Barto told him to go away, the Japanese have been there. 
Did they take her husband? She does not know. He was 
not home when they called. 

We visit house after house, find only women. The Japa- 
nese raided Petanahan, searched houses. Wherever they 
found European clothing the men were arrested. A Javanese 
farmer had sold some of our clothing in Loeboek Linggau. 
It had been traced. 

The women are anxious to get rid of us. Mandang asks 
Ali's wife to find Mangoen and bring him to us. She says 
she will if I doctor her sore leg. Okay. We go into her 
house. The palm oil lamp is flickering. The sore on her leg 
is nearly healed. I rebandage it and tell her to leave it alone 
for a week. Meanwhile, a girl arrives, limping badly. Around 
her foot is a filthy rag. I remove it. An ulcer. I tell Ali's wife 
to heat water and soak the girl's foot. While it is soaking 
Ali's wife goes for Mangoen and we go out and hide in a 
nearby ubi patch. 

Mangoen comes after a long time. He says fifteen men 
were arrested. He is afraid the Japanese will return. Please, 
won't we go? He has no more rice or maize and will not 
trade clothing for palm oil or chickens. I tell him I have 
thread for his wife and silver guilders for him. I want oil 
and chickens. 

Mangoen owes Mandang thirty kilograms of maize and 
rice and me five kilograms from a previous deal. Mandang 
insists on receiving something. We know we can not return. 
Mangoen finally agrees to pay each of us half of what he 


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owes. He also will buy my thread and silver guilders. We 
pay him for permission to dig ubi from his patch so we will 
have full loads. He leaves to get the maize, oil and chickens. 
While we are digging a man comes running. 

“Nippon! Nippon!" 

We seize the sacks, drag them far back into the ubi patch 
and lie down. My heart thumps mightily. Perhaps an hour 
passes. Nippon does not come. Mangoen appears, says it 
was a false alarm. He has two bottles of oil and a chicken. 
Another farmer carries a kaling of maize for Mandang. That 
is all we can get. 

Mangoen leads us over an unfamiliar route winding 
through Petanahan's rolling fields, hills and ravines. We 
balance across logs spanning ditches. On one I sit down, 
ignominiously, and worm across on my backside. The sack 
of ubi is like a bag of rocks. 

Finally we emerge on the road. Mangoen says that di- 
rectly across the road begins a trail that will take us even- 
tually to a point behind the guardhouse. Mandang leading, 
we strike the trail. He snails along, frequently testing the 
ground with his hands. Later he explains that the rubber 
plantation has different kinds of earth and he can tell ap- 
proximately where he is by feeling the earth. We come out 
behind the guardhouse. 

I have been carrying the chicken by its feet, head down, 
and it has been silent for three hours, all the way. But at 
this moment, directly behind the guardhouse, the chicken 
flaps its wings and squawks. I fall on it to smother its noise. 

“Knife," hisses Mandang. 

I have a knife in my hip pocket. Quick as a flash Mandang 
reaches beneath me, seizes the chicken’s neck, throttles it 
with one hand and grasps it around the body with the other. 
I whip out the knife, open it, slice the chicken’s throat. 
When not a quiver is left in the bird I roll off it. 

We lie for a long time in the bushes beside the creek, 
behind the guardhouse, listening for the Haihos to walk 


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across the bridge at guard change time. Finally they do. As 
soon as their footsteps die away, and before the men coming 
off duty approach, we slip into the creek, duck under the 
bridge, under the fence and come up inside camp. 

After roll call I take the dead chicken to my friends. 
Quartermaster Thomson and Hospital Bookkeeper Hilling. 
I had promised them one a long time ago. They wanted to 
fatten it as Eric and I did ours for the Fourth of July. 
Now they will have to eat it immediately, skinny as it is. 

“Sorry fellows,” I say, “but the damn thing just wouldn't 
cooperate.” 

Fm too tired to explain further. I go to my bunk and 
stretch out. My nerves and muscles twitch and jump. Fm 
afraid that’s the last trip to Petanahan. 

The following night two smugglers named Smit and 
Stegeman left for Petanahan. Mandang warned them not 
to risk it but they ignored him. They did not return. 

Two or three friendly Haihos told us not to smuggle any 
more. They said the rubber estate was being patrolled by 
Malay field police known as Jchos, under direction of 
Kempeitai officers. It was the job of the Jehos not only to 
watch for internees but also to keep the Haihos from reach- 
ing the native kampongs when off duty and thus bartering 
goods for grain to resell in our camp. Thus the Haihos also 
became prisoners in a sense. The Japanese learned they 
could no longer trust them even to guard us. 

Cut off from smuggling we concentrated on ubi raiding. 


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C AMP BELALAU was near one edge of the rub- 
ber estate, on the side opposite the hill tract and 
settlement known as Petanahan. Not far from 
the camp was another ladang, or cultivated tract, several 
square miles in area, that had been abandoned except for 
a small part used by the Japanese. The ladang was bounded 
on one side by the rubber estate and on three sides by 
jungle. It was a wild area in which one easily could become 
lost at night. Patches of ubi kayu, scattered over its hill- 
sides, were targets for our ubi raiders. 

Men caught visiting the ladang were not punished as 
severely as were smugglers who dealt with natives. The 
Japanese regarded dealing with natives as dangerous to their 
occupation. Instead of being beaten and turned over to the 
Kempeitai as were smugglers, the ubi raiders were beaten 
and imprisoned for thirty days on half rations in a dark 
room in Seki’s quarters. 

There was a constant, brisk demand for ubi kayu. It was 
cheaper— only three to six guilders a kilogram compared 
with thirty to seventy guilders a kilogram for maize, rice, 
and beans. Also it had more bulk than the grains. Because 
of the demand and the lesser risks involved, more men en- 
gaged in ubi raiding although comparatively few did it regu- 
larly for a living. Eric and I became members of a small 
circle of men who smuggled ubi regularly on a cash basis. 
Eventually we were nicknamed the Ubi Kings. We had 

303 


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narrow escapes but were never caught. Many others were 
less fortunate. 

Routes to the ladang, like routes to Petanahan, were 
limited by geographical as well as by Japanese factors. The 
shortest route was handicapped by an initial hazard of two 
fences, the outer fence being about fifty feet beyond the 
inner one. 

A gate used by Japanese to reach their garden in the 
ladang was in the outer fence. A sentry box was at the gate. 
When a bribable Haiho was on duty at the gate it was a 
matter of timing our exits and entrances to a brief period 
he agreed not to be at the gate. For that purpose a time- 
piece was necessary. Since I had no watch of my own I 
usually borrowed a small alarm clock from Hospital Book- 
keeper Hilling or rented, for a kilogram of ubi, a watch from 
Direct Action Drysdale, who resigned as British leader five 
months after his hard won election. If the wrong Haiho 
was at the gate, or the guards were unexpectedly changed, 
we had to spend an hour or more circling the camp and 
coming in elsewhere at our own risk. Haihos, also, some- 
times betrayed us. 

Let’s go ubi raiding: 

Successfully Eric and I have left camp and now are en- 
tering the ladang — a rolling wilderness of tall grass and 
weeds, scattered trees, swampy ground and bushes which re- 
semble scrub oak and are just as impenetrable. The horizon 
is a distant black arc where sky meets trees, either rubber 
or jungle. 

A well defined trail continues into the ladang from where 
we leave the rubber but the trail is deceptive because at a 
point several hundred meters into the ladang it branches 
like a river on reaching a swampy delta by the sea. The in- 
experienced ubi raider is apt to take a false trail that dis- 
appears in undergrowth. A huge tree towering above its 
fellows near the ladang edge is the only landmark near the 
trail. Even that vanishes as we go deeper into the area. A 


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ground mist diffuses the moon’s rays, casting an eerie half- 
light over everything. The Japanese do not know of the ubi 
patch on this end of the ladang. They guard the other end. 

We watch the ground carefully so as not to lose the twist- 
ing trail. It guides us to our second landmark, a clump of 
barren banana trees in the middle of an open space. Up a 
hill from the trees are the ubi. We reach the ubi and go to 
work. This patch contains the biggest roots I have ever 
seen. Some are as large as a man’s leg. 

The technique of ubi picking is to seize a plant at the 
base of its thick, brittle stem and, by exerting a steady pull 
so as not to break off the stalk with a loud pop, uproot it. 
Two men are required to uproot large ubi, the stems of 
which are sometimes fifteen to twenty feet high with 
crooked, leafy branches. Pulling is easier when rain has 
softened the earth. Once the plant is loosened we feel along 
the roots, following their underground meanderings, dig- 
ging with our hands so as not to miss a single tuber. 

Crackling noises nearby startle us. We halt. Grunts tell 
us that other ubi fanciers— wild pigs— also are rooting for 
dinner. We resume our labors. Each expedition requires a 
longer time to fill our sacks because the patch is being 
culled to extinction. Tonight we work our way up to the 
crest of a little hill and down the other side. Finally our 
sacks are filled. My carrying capacity now is between twenty 
and twenty-five kilograms. Eric can pack up to thirty-five. 

On a previous trip I learned the foolishness of trying to 
carry a bigger load than I could lift onto my own back with- 
out assistance. The lesson was a hard one: 

On that occasion I had taken burly Peter de Groot, Nick 
Koot’s partner in the Bottom Bath business, on his first ubi 
raid. We had wandered far in our picking and were late 
starting back. My load was so heavy I couldn’t lift it by 
myself. Peter had to help me. I staggered forward, back 
bent, chin buried on my chest. We had walked a much 


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longer time than necessary to reach the trail before I realized 
I had missed it. I began circling to regain my bearings. 
Peter followed unquestioningly. Finally I had to tell him 
we were lost. I dropped my load and told him to stay where 
he was and act as a beacon for me by whistling every two 
or three minutes while I cast about in ever widening circles 
to find the trail. It took me nearly an hour and the night 
was running out. 

After we had followed the trail until it became well 
enough defined so Peter could not lose it, I told him, 

“Go ahead of me. You can walk faster with your load 
and make it in time. I'll keep plugging along and, if neces- 
sary, I’ll ditch my load and come back for it tonight." 

Peter went around me. He was probably fifty feet ahead 
when a light flashed on him. Caught! I moved off the trail, 
sank to the ground and rolled over so my sack would not 
drop with a thud. I was sure they had not yet seen me. 

But Peter had not been caught. The light was Mandang 
returning from a smuggling trip. He had found a new place 
to trade. The route lay partly through the ladang. He also 
had found a flashlight that operated, not on batteries, but 
on a tiny dynamo powered by alternately squeezing and 
releasing a pistol-like handle. TTie light blinked on and off 
as the handle was squeezed and released. 

Together we resumed our hike to camp. My load grew 
heavier at every step. I would stumble and find it impossible 
to rise. Mandang or Peter would have to help me up. My 
knees were giving out under the overload. Finally, near the 
gate, I dropped the sack and began removing part of its 
contents. 

“What’s the matter?" asked Mandang. 

“I’ll never get this through the fence if I don’t unload 
part of it." 

“Don’t do that," he said, and seizing the sack, swung it 
onto his own powerful shoulders on top of the knapsack he 
already was carrying. 


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“Go on/' he said, “we’re late/* 

After that I never carried a load I couldn’t lift by myself. 

Tonight, when our sacks are filled, Eric and I shoulder 
them and start for camp. However, instead of climbing back 
up the hill and going down the other side to the trail, we 
circle the hill to save time. The moon is still up but a mist 
has settled at knee height so that the ground is invisible, 
and our legs disappear from the knees down. It is like wad- 
ing through water without pressure or wetness. Presently 
we are on mushy ground, then swampy, then a morass. An- 
other painful lesson. There is no shortcut over unfamiliar 
ground. We work back to the hill, climb it, sight our banana 
trees and strike out for the trail. 

When we reach the rubber trees we readjust our loads, 
preparatory to tackling the last stretch to the gate. We find 
the gate ajar and the sentry box empty. The Haiho has been 
well bribed. We close the gate, hurry to the inner fence, 
slip through, wade the creek and are safely home. 

One of Mandang’s men is waiting for us. 

“You’re in luck again,” he says. “Did you hear the shots?” 

“No.” 

“The Japs caught a bunch coming in from the ladang 
and beat hell out of them. They are in the guardhouse 
now.” 

Eric built a fire while I peeled and washed half a dozen 
small ubi. Private cooking fires during the night did not 
excite Japanese curiosity. I think they did not want to know 
what we were doing. 

The Japanese could have kept us in camp by various 
methods, such as a ring of Japanese guards— because Malay 
Haihos were too susceptible to bribery— or by building a 
solid wall around us, or by summarily executing any pris- 
oner caught outside the fence. They had neither the man- 
power for so many Japanese guards, nor materials for a wall. 


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Executions would have stopped us but Seki apparently did 
not wish to indulge in firing squads. 

The crime of ubi raiding obviously was not so much in 
the raiding as in getting caught. It was a kind of grim game 
we played with the Japanese. The losers paid in beatings 
and acute starvation for thirty days. The winners ate ubi 
kayu undisturbed. 

Eric and I roasted the ubi, split them lengthwise, re- 
moved the tough center fiber and spread palm oil exactly 
as if we were buttering a roast potato. Ubi kayu hot and 
roasted was delicious. 

When morning came word got around that the American 
Ubi Kings had made another successful trip. Customers ar- 
rived, buying in lots from 250 grams upwards. Our sale 
price that day was four guilders a kilogram (1000 grams). 
We sold two-thirds of our load and kept the other third 
for our own use. When we ran out we would go on another 
raid. 

We brought a kilogram to the Bishop, along with our 
standing joke. 

‘'Here is a Mass stipend. We made another safe trip.” 

Eric played a leading role in one of the wildest and most 
disastrous nights for ubi raiders. We had planned a trip 
together that night but, when I heard sixteen other internees 
also were planning to go out and wanted experienced men 
to lead them, I declined. Crowds were too risky. 

Eric agreed to lead a party of four. When the trip began 
he discovered eight were waiting. He decided to take a 
chance anyway and got them all through the first fence. Just 
as he reached the second fence lights flashed. Ambushed! 
Japanese converged from both sides. Fences were behind 
and in front. However, the gate already had been partially 
opened by the bribed Haiho. Eric hurled himself at the 
opening and was through as rifles cracked and bullets whis- 
tled over his head. He leaped off the trail into a tangle of 


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bushes and lay still. Two guards pounded past, ranning up 
the trail toward the ladang where they thought he had 
gone. 

The other ubi raiders were trapped inside the fences, 
caught and taken to the guardhouse. In the confusion the 
gate was left open. Eric had to get back inside camp before 
a roll call was held to discover his identity. The open gate 
was the quickest way. If the bribed Haiho was still in the 
sentry box he might allow Eric to pass. Eric snaked up to 
the sentry box on his belly, maneuvered silently so as to get 
a look at the guard's profile against the sky and thus ascer- 
tain if he was the right Haiho. Such an angle view meant 
that Eric’s head was only a few feet from the side of the 
sentry box. Eric lined up the Haiho’s profile with the sky 
and at that instant the Haiho raised his rifle and fired, not 
at Eric but through the roof of the box. 

Eric leaped up and ran back into the rubber. Japanese 
and more Haihos came running. A game of blindman’s buff 
ensued with Eric and his pursuers trying to locate each other 
by sound. Flashlights stabbed the night but he kept out of 
their range. The interruption had delayed roll call. While 
Japanese and Haihos beat the bushes and trees at the lower 
end of camp Eric clawed his way through undergrowth to 
the upper end, scrambled across the barricade and got 
through the fence. He was so winded and exhausted when 
he reached our block he could not speak. 

Meanwhile, day shift guards had been called out to 
supplement the night shift crew. Japanese and Haihos held 
sack at the fence all night, nabbing other ubi raiders who 
had left before Eric’s gang and were returning unaware of 
what had happened. 

Although Eric got in safely and in time for roll call his 
identity was revealed by some of his companions who be- 
trayed him in order to escape a beating. Next morning Eric 
and three other internees were summoned to Seki’s office. 
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310 

and were stopped by the commotion. Eric’s betrayers knew 
of their intentions and told the Japanese they also had been 
out but, like Eric, must have managed to get back in un- 
detected. 

Evidently Seki despised traitors even while he used them. 
He lectured Eric and the other three on how fortunate they 
were not to have been shot during the chase, warned them 
they would be shot next time and told them to go back to 
camp. The informers he sentenced to the customary thirty 
days on half rations in the total darkness of the detention 
room. 

Later he told Camp Leader Van Asbeck: 

“If you let only experts go to the ladang they will not 
get caught. Amateurs are bunglers.” 

What about internees who could neither trade nor 
smuggle nor raid and who were too poor to buy even ubi? 

If they did not have friends to help them and lived solely 
on the Japanese rations they died, even among the compara- 
tive plenty of Belalau. Many men were doomed by beri-beri 
or chronic malaria or dysentery before they reached Belalau. 
Extra food could not save them. Others seemed unable to 
help themselves in any way, either because they feared the 
risks or simply were constitutionally helpless. Even during 
the most prosperous smuggling periods there was never 
enough coming in to supply the demands of all. 

Like other smugglers Eric and I had sick friends we 
helped gratis but our supplies were never enough to go far 
and our own bellies frequently were empty. 


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By Eastern Windows 

**And not by eastern windows only 

When daylight comes, comes in the light, 
In front the sun climbs slow, how slowlyl 
But westward look, the land is bright!” 
Arthur Hugh Clough, 1819-1861 


P RIME MINISTER WINSTON CHURCHILL 
quoted that stanza, from the poem “Say Not the 
Struggle Naught Availeth,” during a memorable 
speech to Parliament in gloomy 1941. Churchill's fighting 
words and the golden hope expressed in the poem echoed 
around the world to Bangka Island and lodged in the heart 
of an obscure missionary priest, Father Benedictus Bakker. 
They helped give Father Bakker courage when the Japa- 
nese overran his parish, disrupted his work of a lifetime, de- 
stroyed his beloved music and threw him into prison. They 
so inspired him during dark days of imprisonment that, in 
gratitude, he set the poem to music, dedicated the composi- 
tion to Chtirchill and taught it to the choir in Palembang 
Jail. 

I wondered how Father Bakker could compose in the 
babel of the jail. Perhaps it was because the songs in his 
heart drowned out the noises of men. 

He was such a small man that friends made him a podium 
on which to stand while directing his singers. One of his 
happiest moments was the night he used it during a jail 

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concert and conducted the choir in singing for the first 
time the poem he had set to music: 

Say not the struggle naught availeth, 

The labour and the wounds are vain^ 

The enemy faints not, nor faileth. 

And as things have been they remain. 

If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars; 

It may be, in yon smoke conceal'd. 

Your comrades chase e'en now the fliers. 

And, but for you, possess the field. 

For while the tired waves, vainly breaking. 

Seem here no painful inch to gain. 

Far back, through creeks and inlets making. 

Comes silent, flooding in, the main. 

And not by eastern windows only. 

When daylight comes, comes in the light; 

In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly! 

But westward look, the land is bright! 

Besides his God, his church, his mission, his music and 
Mr. Churchill, Father Bakker had another love: Queen 
Wilhelmina. So for her he also composed and dedicated a 
song. The choir sang it first on her birthday, August 31, 
1942 - 

Father Bakker had intended to send his compositions to 
Churchill and Wilhelmina after the war. He asked me one 
day, while we were exchanging language lessons, if I would 
send the manuscripts to the Prime Minister and the Queen 
should anything happen to him. I promised. 

“Whenever I am worried,” said Father Bakker, “I think 
of how Mr. Churchill and our Queen are beset by world 
shaking problems; then my own troubles seem small.” 


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Just as Churchill and Wilhelmina inspired Father Bakker, 
so that little priest’s zeal, devotion and music inspired us, 
his fellow prisoners. The choir was more than pleasant 
entertainment. Amid the dirt, suffering and concentrated 
meannesses of men in prison, the choir was a symbol both 
of man’s better nature and of achievement. It not only 
cheered us at concerts but lent a needed warmth and 
solemnity to funerals, the last gestures we could make for 
departed friends. 

Death and disease reduced the choir’s ranks until it 
ceased to function. Christmas, 1944, was its last appearance. 
The beginning of the end for Father Bakker himself had 
been when his twenty-nine fellow Bangka missionaries en- 
tered Muntok Prison from Pangkal Pinang and he worked 
himself to exhaustion trying to save them. Death took seven- 
teen of them, including Monsignor Bouma who died in 
Belalau April 19, 1945. 

As Father Bakker’s own strength began to fail he drove 
himself to complete a project to which he had dedicated 
his talents: a composition in a new style of music for a 
complete Mass. He had a premonition his time was short 
so he worked on the manuscript each day as long as there 
was light to see. Finally, he collapsed and was taken into 
hospital. 

The soup Eric and I brought could only cheer his spirits, 
it was too late to help his body. On an afternoon in June, 
1945, I had something besides soup to cheer him. A new 
internee had arrived in camp with authentic news of Ameri- 
can victories in the Pacific. He was an Indo-European radio 
technician who had been forced to work for the Japanese 
keeping in repair military transmitters and receivers in 
Palembang. He said American broadcasts had made much 
of the capture of an island named I wo Jima, describing it 
as the first real Japanese soil conquered by American forces. 
Now Tokyo could be bombed at will. 

I had lost my twenty-five guilder bet that the war would 


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end by June 1st but I made another wager with Doc Lentze 
that we would be free by September 1st. The loser was to 
give the winner a chicken. 

Dr. Lentze, Harrison and others, who had remained in 
Muntok with fifteen patients too sick to be transported, 
had rejoined us in Belalau after eleven patients died and 
four improved sufficiently to travel. 

Father Bakker smiled weakly when I told him of the 
chicken bet. But his eyes lighted at the news of Iwo Jima. 
He needed something more than Churchill’s words to cheer 
him now. His life was draining away. “Intestines,” as the 
Japanese would say. His black Vandyke beard failed to hide 
drawn lips and sunken cheeks. The pinched look of death 
was in his face. His arms lay limply beside him. He fingered 
a rosary with one hand as we talked. 

“It can’t be long now. Father,” I said. “'The radio says 
Iwo Jima is only about seven hundred miles from Japan. In 
a couple of months we’ll walk out of here together.” 

“I am afraid not, Mac,” he said. “I am exhausted and 
now I have the dysentery.” 

He paused to gather breath for more words. 

“I am trying but I have no strength.” 

He rested awhile, then, 

“Maybe you will see Iwo Jima after the war.” 

“Perhaps I will.” 

“If you do, say a prayer for me when you get there, and 
say one also for the Japanese. Don’t hate them,” 

He gathered his breath for more words. 

“Don’t forget the manuscripts, will you, Mac?” 

“I won’t forget. I promise you they will be delivered,” * 
Father Bakker died June 14, 1945, at Belalau. His grave is 
the sixty-eighth in the clearing among the rubber trees. 

* Representatives of United Press delivered the manuscripts early in 
1946. Mr. Churchill, through the British Consul in Miami, Florida, where 
he was visiting at the time; and Queen Wilhelmina, through her secre- 
tary, wrote me, acknowledging receipt of the songs. I hope that in their 
busy lives they found time to have them played. 


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“Say a prayer for the Japanese. Don’t hate them.” 

Father Bakker had asked that in behalf of those responsi- 
ble for his death. His heart had been too big for hate. 
That was my second object lesson in charity in Belalau. 
The first had been shortly after our arrival in March, 

^ 945 - 

Bishop Mekkelholt was in hospital with dysentery. He 
sent word he would like to see me. He was lying on the end 
of a row. I squatted down beside the bench. He did not 
waste words. 

Naming a man I despised and who was no friend of the 
Bishop’s, he said, 

“An emergency appeal has been made for quinine hydro- 
chloride to give him.” 

Pills containing the compound quinine hydrochloride 
could be dissolved into liquid for hypodermic injection in 
cases of severe malaria. One pill was sufficient for one injec- 
tion. Other types of quinine could not be used for injection 
but had to be taken by mouth. 

I knew what was coming. I had a few pills of quinine 
hydrochloride. Bishop Mekkelholt wanted me to give 
them up. 

Just before leaving Muntok, Harrison handed me the pills 
saying, 

“Doc West gave me these in case you got another bad 
attack of malaria. Now that we’re being separated you had 
better take them.” 

Already I had given away some of the pills. They had 
helped save a priest ward attendant who was dying of 
malaria. That was how Bishop Mekkelholt had learned of 
them. Now he was asking me to give away some more— 
not for himself, nor for one of his priests, nor even for a 
friend, but for a man who, to say the least, was no friend 
of his and who was an enemy of mine. In my opinion the 
man had done much harm in camp, from the time he first 
joined us in Muntok Prison. He had not been with us in 


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Palembang. I can not say more about him without reveal- 
ing his identity. 

“He isn’t worth saving,” I said, “and even if he were he 
doesn’t really need them. I saw him this morning and he is 
not critically ill. He only thinks he is.” 

Bishop Mekkelholt thought differently, saying, 

“Dr. Kampschuur says the man has both dysentery and 
malaria and is allergic to quinine by mouth. One or two 
injections now will stop the malaria and enable him to 
fight off the dysentery.” 

“No, Bishop. I have only ten pills left and I might need 
them to save myself or a friend, or some one more valuable 
to the camp than he.” 

“Mac,” said the Bishop, “he may have done some mis- 
chief but he also is capable of doing much good. It is not 
for you or me to judge the value of a life.” 

I hesitated. 

“Please, Mac,” said the Bishop, and he smiled. “I’ll pray 
that you don’t get malaria.” 

I returned to my bunk, got five pills and gave them to the 
Bishop, saying, 

“Give them to the doctor for him but don’t say where 
they came from.” 

The remaining five pills were used to help save a young 
Englishman who was critically ill with malaria. 

Neither man was ever told the origin of the pills. 

Things began occurring in August which encouraged 
me to believe I might win my bet of a chicken with Dr. 
Lentze. 

On August i8th four-motored planes passed over camp, 
but they were too high for identification. I believed the 
Japanese did not have four-motored, land based planes and 
that the planes therefore were British or American. If they 
were Allied craft there should have been an air raid alarm. 
Since no alarm, why? 


BY EASTERN WINDOWS 


317 

On August 20th Smit and Stegeman, the smugglers who 
had disappeared, returned. They said they had been caught 
by Japanese on the trail to Petanahan, imprisoned, but not 
beaten. 

August 21st several Haihos ran away. Their fellows sent 
a spokesman into camp at night to ask a Dutch official 
what fate awaited Haihos when the Japanese surrendered. 
The official told him that depended on the individual 
Haiho. 

August 23rd a Japanese machine gun company replaced 
the Haihos. That night two Japanese guards, who had been 
trading with internees, returned goods they had taken for 
resale in Loeboek Linggau and paid debts they owed the 
prisoners. 

Simultaneously Seki announced a phenomenal ration in- 
crease, quadrupling the amount we had been receiving. 

August 24th at 2 p.M. all men who could walk were 
summoned to gather outside the barbed wire, near Seki's 
office. That was the first time such a thing had happened. 
We felt sure the war had ended. 

Seki appeared, accompanied by the interpreter, whose 
face was swollen from an infected tooth. Tani, the medical 
sergeant, and a Japanese major also were there. Guards 
remained at their usual posts and did not come near us. 

A table had been placed under the rubber trees. Seki and 
the interpreter mounted it. Seki spoke in Japanese, a few 
sentences at a time, and the interpreter translated. It was a 
long speech. I will only paraphrase its substance. 

‘Tuans,'' the interpreter said, and we pricked up our 
ears. Heretofore the interpreter always had been careful to 
address us by using a Malay phrase which was considered 
an insult because it was used only in addressing coolies. 
Now he spoke to us politely as Tuans. 

“By the will of the Emperor," Seki said through the in- 
terpreter, “the war is ended. The Emperor has decided to 
end the war because the Americans are fighting cruelly and 


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using a new type of bomb. It is called atom bomb. The 
Emperor does not wish to continue such a cruel and in- 
human war. Therefore the war is ended. Once more we are 
friends.” 

Seki paused. There was no sound from his listeners. Curi- 
ous to see how men would react to one of the greatest 
announcements of their lives, I studied the faces around me. 
Most of them were expressionless. Not a murmur rose from 
the crowd. There were no displays of emotion. 

Seki continued: 

“American soldiers, and perhaps also British, will come 
to occupy Sumatra. [He said something else about Ameri- 
can troops but I missed it.] We Japanese soldiers will soon 
go home. I have been in charge of you since April, 1944, and 
I have done my best for you. I know it has not been enough 
but I was powerless to do more. 

“Men and women now may visit each other’s camps in 
the daytime. Each internee must remain here until the new 
occupation forces come. TAere will be no more roll calls.” 

So this was my last roll call. I thought of my first in 
Palembang Jail the morning of April 6, 1942. Standing in 
line that morning had been well fleshed, shirtless men in 
various stages of sunburn. Today, August 24, 1945, most 
survivors of that first roll call were rail thin and uniformly 
suntanned. Some were shambling skeletons who had 
severely taxed their strength to stagger out here. Others, 
like Eric and me, were gaunt but holding their own as a 
result of smuggled food. A few were fat. 

I thought of those missing from this last roll call who 
were lying now in hospital or their cell blocks, too sick to 
walk, or in the cemeteries of Palembang, Muntok and 
Belalau. 

Seki’s voice and the interpreter’s barking brought my 
thoughts back to the business of learning we were free. Why 
did they keep talking, repeating over and over the message 
we had waited so long to hear? Seki went into considerable 


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detail on what we should and should not do until the Allied 
soldiers came. We were still in his custody and, until he 
should be relieved of his post, he was responsible for our 
well-being. Well-being! Hal 

Finally he finished, repeating again: 

‘Tet us be friends once more.” 

He stepped down from the table, turned and walked 
back to his office. 

I asked a Dutch Indo-European beside me, 

“Did you understand exactly what he said about the 
American troops?” 

The man looked as if he were about to burst into tears. 
His eyes were misty and when he spoke his voice was 
choked. He said: 

“He didn’t say anything about our Queen!” 

I was so astonished all I could reply was, 

“Didn’t he?” 

“No,” sobbed the Indo-European and now he really was 
crying. “No. He didn’t say a word about our Queen.” 

That was the kind of hold Wilhelmina had on the hearts 
of her people. 

As we walked back into camp a buzz of voices rose. Men 
smiled and shook hands with each other. There were no 
shouts. Eric and I sat down by our fireplace. Passers-by, 
enroute to their own blocks, shook our hands. I felt no 
exhilaration. We had been expecting the announcement. 
Seki’s words seemed an anti-climax. For three years, four 
months and nineteen days I had wondered what this mo- 
ment would be like. Often I had discussed it. However, my 
imagination had balked at envisaging it. Now it had come, 
with no particular thrill, and was over. Perhaps the lack of 
thrill was because we still were so far from freedom. The 
war had long ago caught us up, spilled us into imprisonment 
and passed on. Fighting had been distant and unreal, like 
the new peace. 

I rose and walked the length of camp to the hospital to 


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see how patients were taking the news. They were far more 
emotional than their healthier fellow prisoners. 

Three beri-beri patients were “dancing” in the aisle — 
strutting grotesquely up and down, performing stiff g>Ta- 
tions on their swollen limbs. Those who could not walk lay 
in their beds, some laughing, some cr)ing, a few singing. 

Andrew Carruthers, 27, radio announcer for the Malayan 
Broadcasting Corporation, who had been a prime organizer 
of our pre-Muntok shows, was ciying. Tears streamed 
down his beri beri swollen face. He said he was crying both 
from happiness and pain. 

“Now I will get well,” he said. “Soon the Allied soldiers 
will be here with medicine to save me. They surely will. 
I’m so happy.” 

When I first saw Carruthers, standing in line on my first 
roll call in Palembang Jail, he had been a slender, grace- 
fully formed chap. Now, the last roll call had sounded and, 
except for his eyes and voice and shining hope, he was 
nearly unrecognizable. 

Other men were lying there as badly off as Carruthers, 
but I remember him best because of his shining hope. 

“I’ll recover in no time,” he said, “as soon as the Allies 
arrive with vitamin injections.” 

But one day followed another and no Allies came. We 
were too far from any^where. 

Carruthers’ wife came from the Women’s Camp to find 
her husband. She shuddered, halted and closed her eyes 
when she entered our thatch-roofed hospital. Quickly, how- 
ever, she recovered herself and walked down the aisle toward 
her husband’s bed on the other end of the ward. She passed 
the patients who had both beri-beri and dysentery, each one 
of them a sodden, living stench. Their eyes were slits in 
swollen, putty-colored faces. Serum oozed through rag 
bandages, soaked blankets of rice sacking, and dripped 
through bamboo bed slats to the earthen floor. It was as 
though their bodies were inexhaustible reservoirs whose 


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contents were being forced by hydraulic pressure through 
distended skins. 

Since February, 1942, Mrs. Carruthers had waited for this 
moment. Through three years and a half of misery she had 
anticipated their reunion when the war was over. And her 
husband too. Now it had come and she was walking to 
meet him, the last man in a row of beri-beri cases. 

Attendants had managed to prop him up a little bit, so 
he was not lying flat. She reached his bed and smiled 
and kissed him. 

“Don’t worry, now,” he told her. “I’m going to be all 
right. Vitamin injections are all I need and the Allies will 
have those when they come.” 

Four paratroopers,* three Dutch and one Chinese, 
dropped to locate prison camps, found us September 6th. 
They said hostilities had ceased three weeks before on 
August 15th. They radioed our location to their head- 
quarters across the Indian Ocean in Colombo, Ceylon. 

Planes flew up from the Cocos Islands about eight hun- 
dred miles away, in the Indian Ocean, and dropped food 
and medicine. But it was too late to save six men, including 
Carruthers. He died September 9th, still bright with hope 
and with his wife beside him. 

* The paratroopers, working with British forces, were members of the 
Korps Insulinde of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army. Theii names: 
Regimental Sergeant-Major Hakkenberg, Corps Officer Wilhelm, Sergeant 
Van Hasselt, and the Chinese officer. Suet. Twenty paratroopers. Sown 
from Colombo, Ceylon, and dropped at five key points of Sumatra, “occu- 
pied” the entire island, sixth largest in the world. 


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New Brews in Old Bottles 


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A SIDE from G.I. Joe,” said the Dutch para- 
troopers who found our Belalau Camp, “they 
X A- say three things won the war: the Dakota, 
the Jeep and penicillin.” 

They were talking strange jargon from another world. 
Who or what was G.I. Joe? And a Jeep? A Dakota and 
penicillin? They told of other wonders, of such incongruities 
as radar and jet propulsion and rocket bombs. And of that 
“inhuman” weapon of which Seki had spoken, the atom 
bomb. 

They confirmed rumors we had heard that Hitler and 
Mussolini were dead and answered another question that 
had puzzled us ever since the Japanese themselves informed 
us President Roosevelt had died. Who was Truman? 

“Rip Van Winkle II” the paratroopers dubbed me when 
I fired questions about things that made them laugh, they 
were so old to them and new to me. 

When the paratroopers walked into camp they found 
about half the living inmates were walking skeletons, a 
quarter cast respectable shadows and some even were fat. 
Statistically our mortality rate was difficult to estimate 
because the Dutch population had fluctuated radically as 
we moved from place to place. An over all figure for Dutch 
deaths based on the highest number of Hollanders in camp 
at any one time, would be slightly over 38 percent. The 
British mortality rate was easy to figure: of 200 originally in 

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Palembang Jail, 109 died, for a score of 54 V2 percent. Of 
the 200 men who joined us in Muntok from Pangkal 
Pinang, the death rate was nearly 60 percent. 

The appearance of the Women's Camp appalled us when 
we reached there but the women, statistically, had survived 
better than the men. Thirty per cent of British women had 
died and twenty per cent of the Dutch. 

Higher mortality rates for the British in both camps 
were attributed to the fact that the English had two strikes 
against them initially. Most had been shipwrecked and 
come ashore penniless and without belongings to trade for 
food in prison camp. Also they were not as adept at survival 
as the Dutch. 

Women doctors attributed the generally lower death 
rates in the Women's Camp to three things: first, nurses 
to care for the sick; second, slightly better food and treat- 
ment, although this item would be highly debatable; and 
third, mental vitality. 

There were numerous stories of women having been 
slapped by irritated guards, of having been punished for 
rules infractions by being made to stand at attention in 
the yard when mosquitoes were thickest in the early eve- 
ning, or of having been made to cultivate gardens in the 
hottest part of the day. However, there was not a single 
instance of women being otherwise molested by the Jap- 
anese. The women doctors and the British and Dutch 
Camp Leaders said the same thing on that score: 

'‘The Japanese officers and guards never made improper 
advances to us. Only women who wanted to flirt were 
flirted with." 

Leader of the Dutch women was the nun. Mother Lau- 
rentia, while the leader of the British women was the only 
American in camp, Milwaukee-born Mrs. Gertrude B. 
Hinch, wife of the head master of the Anglo-Chinese school 
in Singapore. 

Neither men nor women had atrocity stories to relate. 


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unless Japanese utter neglect and indifference in allowing us 
to starve in a land of plenty could be called an atrocity. 
When I saw the hunger-stunted children in the Women’s 
Camp I believed it could. 

When the paratroopers told us of other prison camps, 
like the German-run horror holes of Dachau and Belsen, I 
decided that instead of having suffered hell, as we thought 
we had, our experience had been only purgatorial. 

In the Women’s Camp I quickly found the three Colijn 
girls who, with their father, had shared my shipwreck 
adventures. Antoinette had fully recovered from her ma- 
chine gun wounds. Allette was a woman, in contrast to the 
girl I remembered. Helen, the oldest, was but a shadow of 
the young woman who had pulled an oar in our lifeboat. 
She was in the hospital, yellow with jaundice and malaria 
and suffering skin sores. However, her condition was not 
critical and she was recovering rapidly as a result of Jap- 
anese medicine and food. 

Anxious to atone for their neglect, the Japanese flooded 
both camps with food, medicine and clothing. They sent 
doctors and “Red Cross” men. One of the “Red Cross” 
men was recognized by former victims as a Kempeitai 
oflBcer who had grilled them in Pangkal Pinang. 

After September 13th British planes showered us almost 
daily with parachute packages in metal cylinders. Although 
several such packages crashed through barrack roofs onto 
sleeping benches no one was injured. The crew of one plane 
attached a puckish note telling of elections in England 
and ending with: 

“What do you think of the labour government?” 

Thus we learned Churchill and his cabinet had fallen. 

Strangest contribution to our ever growing pile of supplies 
was cloth— bolts and bolts of cloth the Japanese had been 
hoarding. We promptly traded all the cloth, and most of 
the Japanese army clothing issued to us, for chickens, ducks 
and fish. We scoured the countryside in search of meat. 


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Welcome as were the parachuted tinned goods they were 
not fresh meat, which we craved more than anything else. 
We visited our Javanese friends of Petanahan. Many of 
them had just been liberated from the Kempeitai prison 
in Loeboek Linggau. They showed us scars from the beat- 
ings they suffered when their inquisitors tried to learn 
names of internees with whom they had traded. Mangoen, 
the head man, was in bad shape. 

I spent half a night sitting in Mangoen’s hall talking 
with Javanese farmers who wanted to hear about America 
and to know what I thought would happen to them now 
that the war was over. My Malay was not good enough for 
a political discussion but one man, whom I had not met 
before and who spoke a little English, helped bridge the 
language gap. 

While we smoked raw tobacco, drank black coffee, 
munched fried ubi kayu chips and talked, the others lis- 
tened intently and occasionally put questions. Their spokes- 
man wanted to know if now the Indonesians would be 
regarded as equals by Dutch, British and Americans. 

My answers were vague. I believed they would find little 
difference in the attitude of white men toward them but 
I did not like to say so. On the other hand I also was deter- 
mined not to tell any lies just to make them happy. So I 
mumbled about the Atlantic Charter and its four freedoms 
and guarantees for self determination of peoples. 

I felt ashamed when I mentioned the charter because I 
did not believe its guarantees were worth the paper they 
had been written on. Apparently the spokesman did not 
either for he said, in effect, 

“If we Indonesians are treated as inferior people after 
the war the same as before there will be trouble." 

One question the colonists of Petanahan asked over and 
over: “When are the Americans coming?" 

“When the Americans come" seemed to be a millenium 
they expected and eagerly awaited. Maybe that was why 


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they treated me so cordially. They made me feel they liked 
me. I know I liked them. 

About midnight I left Mangoen's house. Radi, waving 
a blazing torch, led me to Barto’s where earlier in the day 
I had feasted on chicken, rice and coconut pudding. Rain 
was falling but not hard enough to extinguish the torch. 
My bed that night was in a recess just below the eaves of 
Barto’s house. It was reached by a ladder from the chicken 
yard and, although theoretically protected from the ele- 
ments by the roof and by being on the leeward side of the 
house, was open to anything which might blow contrary to 
the prevailing wind. Since my clothing was wet and the bed- 
ding consisted only of the straw mat on which I lay, all the 
breezes felt contrary. 

Next morning I spent trading around Petanahan and 
acquired six chickens. When I started back to camp Radi 
and his wife begged me to do something for their only 
child, a malaria withered infant of ten months, but so tiny 
he looked about two. Each of their previous three children 
had died in infancy of malaria. Could I not save this one? 

“We will take him to the doctors in camp," I said. 

A heavy thunder shower drenched us before we had gone 
half way. The baby was wrapped in a tarpaulin to keep 
dry. We slipped and slithered along the same trail I had 
traveled with Mandang on our smuggling trips. Now, how- 
ever, the fallen trees had been removed. I wondered how 
we used to make it in the dark. 

Japanese sentries stopped us at the front gate. Natives 
were not allowed inside camp. (A few days later, however, 
ragged natives entered in droves to trade. ) 

“Baby dying!" I shouted in Malay, and brushed past the 

's wife, who was carrying the infant, was too fright- 
ened to follow. She was an undernourished wisp of a thing 
less than five feet tall and nervously chewing betel nut. The 
thunder shower had chilled her and now she was beginning 


guards. 

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to shiver from incipient malaria that broke out on slightest 
provocation. I seized her arm and dragged her past the 
sentries. They protested feebly but made no further eflEort 
to stop us. 

Doctor Kampschuur was as startled as the sentries when 
I walked into his quarters with the woman and child. How- 
ever, he gave her special quinine for infants and ordinary 
quinine for herself. 

Eric and I went to Petanahan a week later with more 
quinine and some cod liver oil. When he gave it to me 
Kampschuur said, 

“I am afraid it is no use because that child has had 
chronic malaria too long." 

He guessed correctly. We arrived at Radi’s house to learn 
the baby had died. We gave presents of cloth and tinned 
butter, issued by the Japanese, to Radi, Barto, Ali and their 
wives. It happened to be the first day of the Moslem New 
Year. In every Javanese hut was open house and on every 
table were cakes and sweets, coffee and tobacco. They were 
unbelievably poor, those Javanese farmers, but they were 
rich in hospitality. 

On my last afternoon in camp I paid a farewell call to 
the cemetery m the rubber trees with its ninety-five graves. 
There lay Kendall, who had succeeded Old Pop as ward 
matron; Phillips who had posted the 25,000 guilder wager 
offer that we would be free by January 1, 1944 (he died 
July 1945, when freedom was so near); Carruthers of the 
shining hope; Allen, my first cell mate; Father Bakker and 
the man he had tried so hard to save. Monsignor Bouma, 
Vicar Apostolic of Bangka Island. 

Unless these graves were constantly tended they soon 
would be covered by advancing undergrowth. The cem- 
eteries of Muntok and Palembang were better off in that 
respect. They were in city burial grounds. 

That night I said goodbye to my best smuggling cus- 
tomer, Bishop Mekkelholt. 


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“If you are able/’ the Bishop asked, “please send us some 
wheat flour for communion hosts and some altar wine.” 

Sacramental wine and hosts are necessary for celebration 
of Mass. The priests had managed to say Mass daily for over 
three years by rationing their wine supply with an eye drop- 
per and dividing hosts into fractional particles. The supplies 
and the war ended almost simultaneously. I promised to 
send wine and wheat flour from the first place they could 
be found. 

Father Elling who, burning with malarial fever, lay 
nearby in his bedspace on the floor, sat up to wish me luck. 
He said something about the future of the missions. 

“You’d better return to Holland and recover your health 
and then think about the missions,” I said. 

“Nonsense,” he said. “Now is when the natives need us.” 

The following afternoon, September 19th, a month and 
four days after V-J Day, Australian planes flew us back to 
the world we had left in 1942. We landed in Singapore. In 
the airport canteen Eric met Lloyd, the other man who 
escaped from the Japanese executioners on the shore of 
Bangka Island. The two had met before, when they con- 
gratulated each other in Muntok Prison shortly after that 
macabre beach party in February, 1942. Now they ex- 
changed congratulations on their second identical escape— 
this time from prison camp. 

I found Doc West * in the Raffles Hotel. He was worn 
from dysentery but on his feet. Conditions in the Palem- 
bang military camp, where he was taken from Muntok 
Prison, had been considerably better than in Muntok, he 
said, until the last quarter of 1944; after that they deteri- 
orated rapidly. Beginning in May, 1945, the Japanese pur- 
sued a deliberate policy of wiping out the military prisoners 
by starvation. Rations were drastically and systematically 

* For his services to military prisoners of war and civilian internees in 
Muntok and Palembang, Dr. West was decorated after the war with the 
Order of the British Empire. 


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cut in graduating percentages during May, June, July and 
August. Survivors were to have been massacred by machine 
gun in a barbed wire stockade on August 27th, according to 
a friendly Korean guard who kept prisoners informed of 
Japanese plans for them. The stockade was built and prep- 
arations for the execution were going forward when libera- 
tion came.* 

More than anything else in Singapore, even more than a 
glass of fresh milk and a dish of ice cream, I wanted to find 
the Press Relations Office and start sending cables. When 
I found it I felt I was back in civilization. At last I could 
relax. In a cloth belt worn next to my skin I had been carry- 
ing the most essential of the notes transcribed after I buried 
my diaries in 1943. Also in the belt were my passport and 
press credentials which I managed to save through every- 
thing, including swimming in the sea. Feeling secure among 
friends I removed the belt and put it in a little sack con- 
taining my recent diaries and other possessions, then went 
to work writing cables. Someone, probably a hungry Chi- 
nese messenger, took the sack. It was found later in a gar- 
bage can minus the belt, notes and credentials. Luckily, 
however, two diary notebooks still were there. 

A few days later two plane loads of American correspond- 
ents arrived in Singapore. Among them were several friends 
of my Tokyo and Shanghai days and Vern Haugland of 
Associated Press whom I had known at home in Salt Lake 
City. When I told Vern of my buried diaries in Sumatra 
and my recently stolen notes he and other correspondents 
arranged to fly me to Palembang to dig them up. 

The plane which brought us there was the first American 
craft to land in Palembang after V-J Day. It caused quite 
a stir. The Japanese who, ironically, now were policing 

* Japanese officers and non-commissioned officers in charge of military 
camp in Palembang were tried by a British tribunal in Singapore and were 
executed. A Dutch War Crimes tribunal in Sumatra tried Japanese in 
charge of civilian internees and sentenced Seki to fifteen years and the 
commander of the Women’s Camp to six years. 


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Sumatra under Allied supervision, because there were no 
Allied troops for that purpose, supplied us automobile 
transportation into town. 

We stopped first at Charitas Hospital which had been 
opened that day, September 28th, by Mother Alacoque 
who had survived her term of Kempeitai imprisonment. She 
said she was alive because one of the Indonesian jailers had 
smuggled food to her “and by God's grace I did not get 
dysentery.” 

The medicines and bandages the nuns had given native 
friends in Palembang to hide until the war’s end were 
returned and made possible the re-opening. 

Bishop Mekkelholt greeted us. He was wearing a glisten- 
ing white cassock. Around his waist was a crimson sash 
similar to the one I had lost on a smuggling trip. I handed 
him a package containing altar wine and wheat flour for 
communion hosts that had been flown to a Singapore 
church from Australia. For the first time in our long ac- 
quaintance he was at a loss for words. Father van Gis- 
bergen, the newspaper translator, was there, too, grinning 
like the proverbial Cheshire cat. Father Filing was still in 
Belalau. 

We drove to Palembang's principal hotel. In the airy 
lobby, from which Japanese officers had been ousted a few 
days before, sat the oil men, Oosten, De Bruyn and others. 
While the correspondents visited the Shell and Standard 
refineries outside Palembang to survey the accuracy of 
Allied bombing, I went after my diaries. 

Oosten and another oil man named Schoorel went along 
with me. Our bodyguards were Colonel C. A. Coltharp, 
pilot of the plane that brought me, and Lieutenant V. W. 
Pennanen. We found Barracks Camp, where the diaries 
were buried, a shambles. After the men had been trans- 
ferred to Muntok, in September, 1943, the women had 
been moved into Banacks Camp. When the women also 
were taken to Bangka Island, the camp had been turned 


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into a Japanese truck depot. Some barracks had been de- 
molished but the floor of the hospital was still intact. I 
measured off twenty-seven feet from what had been the 
bathroom corner, dug under the foundation and found the 
first bottle. 

By this time Japanese soldiers, some of whom had been 
our former guards, had arrived on the scene. They watched 
intently but made no move to interfere. The Allies, as 
personified by Colonel Coltharp and Lieutenant Pennanen, 
both armed, were masters now. 

Three feet beyond the first bottle I dug again and 
found the second. Another three feet and the cylindrical 
tin containing Camp News was uncovered. The first layer 
of tin had rusted through but the second layer was intact. 
Koot had insulated the container well. It had been buried 
a month over two years. The bottles were undamaged and 
the diaries in perfect condition. 

Oosten and Schoorel returned to the hotel. Coltharp, 
Pennanen and I directed the chauffeur to drive to Palem- 
bang Jail. 

‘‘Open up,” we ordered the Japanese jailer. 

He swung open the iron gates which had received me 
the night of Easter Sunday, April 5, 1942. Instinctively I 
glanced up over the gate, as I had done that first sickening 
night, and saw the date “a.d. 1883.” 

The jail had been refurbished. The barbed wire dividing 
the yard into sections was fresh and taut. The cell doors 
which we had removed to use as bed frames and for other 
purposes had been replaced and were closed and locked. 
Behind them, at rigid attention, stood thin, ragged, dafk- 
skinned prisoners, Malay, Chinese, Ambonese. Tbey were 
utterly quiet. We stood for a moment stunned by the 
impact of the place. It was worse than I remembered it. 

Coltharp voiced my feelings when he said, “This is hor- 
rible.” 

Just like the Japanese officers who had inspected us as 


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prisoners in this same jail while we stood at rigid attention, 
Coltharp, Pennanen and I walked around the jail inspecting 
the prisoners who now stood where once I had stood. I 
thought I knew something of what they felt. And I was 
sick inside. Had they been our recent Japanese captors I 
might have gloated. But they were not. They were poor, 
forgotten natives who had been here since heaven knew 
when and who were still here more than a month after the 
war ended. I turned to the jailer, who was keeping a re- 
spectful distance. 

‘Tor what are these men being held?" 

“Murder. Theft. Lawbreaking." 

“Where are the political prisoners?" 

“We have none." 

I did not believe him but could prove nothing contrary. 

“How long have they been here?" 

He shrugged. 

I looked over the little hedge into what once had been 
the clinic where Allen and I had lived, and into the other 
room where dysentery patients had lain with Old Pop min- 
istering to them. Women were there now, hollow cheeked, 
staring. The rooms had reverted to their pre-war status as 
quarters for female prisoners. The clock had spun around 
four years lacking two months and eleven days since Pearl 
Harbor and the hands were right back where they had 
started, as far as Palembang Jail was concerned. 

In the rear of the jail we found a dozen emaciated pris- 
oners sitting on mats on the covered walk, I stared at them 
and then at the jailer. 

“Dysentery," he said. 

The cycle was complete. 

Suddenly one of the human wrecks spoke in English. 

“Help me, in the name of God, please help me." 

The only help we could give him was to ask his name, 
which was Li Tai Sun, and give it to the British and Dutch 
prisoner of war teams now in charge of Palembang. Li Tai 


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Sun was a Chinese from Penang, Malaya. He said he had 
been a lorry driver in the British defense corps during 
1941-42 fighting in Malaya and had come to Sumatra from 
Singapore as a “volunteer" in a Japanese sponsored “Peo- 
ple’s Army" work unit. In Palembang he had deserted. I 
asked him, 

“Will the jailer beat you for having spoken to us?" 

“I don’t know. Probably." 

I warned the jailer, 

“Don’t harm this man. We are coming back for him." 

Actually we could neither come back for him nor take 
him with us. He was too sick to care for himself and he had 
no friends to care for him in the city outside. We could 
not take a dysentery-ridden man in a crowded plane to 
Singapore. We could only appeal to the compassion of 
harried Allied officers to investigate this jail and its native 
prisoners and do something for Li Tai Sun. 

“It’s getting late,” said Coltharp. “We’ve got to make 
Singapore before dark." 

Pennanen had a camera. He took some pictures and we 
walked toward the gate. 

Strange, I thought, this place now is so grim. In Muntok 
and Belalau we had looked back on Palembang Jail as our 
time of prosperity. The present prisoners were less crowded 
than we had been. Maybe it was their air of silent hopeless- 
ness that now made the jail so forbidding; that, and the 
locked cell doors. 

The jailer opened the inner gates for us and closed them 
while we stood in the corridor. The outer gates were opened; 
we stepped through and they clanged shut behind us. We 
walked to the waiting automobile. Two Japanese officers 
passing by snapped to attention and saluted us. We re- 
turned the salute, climbed into the car and were driven to 
the airport. 

I gave Li Tai Sun’s name to a Dutch officer who promised 
to investigate. 


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The correspondents had returned from inspecting the 
refineries. They said Allied bombing had done compara- 
tively little damage. Although much of the Standard plant 
had been destroyed by its American operators prior to Jap- 
anese occupation, the Japanese had combined the two 
plants and claimed to have operated them at about one- 
third capacity to the end of the war. 

We climbed into the bomber. It roared down the runway 
which had been extended by British and Dutch military 
prisoners under Japanese direction. The plane rose, circled 
Palembang, the refineries, followed the course of the Moesi 
river to the Bangka Straits and headed north for Singapore. 

Now I was leaving Sumatra, home of little brown men 
toiling in ladangs, of the Tuan Besar— literally, Mr. Big— 
as colonial big shots are called by natives, and of King 
Kong, monstrous ape of the silent movie era. The things 
I had seen and done in that land below me now seemed as 
distant and unreal as the King Kong thrill picture of so 
many years ago. I had to look at my malaria yellowed hands 
to make the immediate past seem true. 

King Kong, you may remember, was a Hollywood version 
of the orang-utan, a genuine anthropoid ape that lives in 
Sumatra’s jungles. I wondered what Hollywood would do 
with another Sumatra denizen, the Tuan Besar. 

Had the war changed him? True, the prison camps had 
shrunk his paunch until it was little more than a series of 
wrinkles over a bony pelvis. But had his mind shrunk with 
it or had the experience given new breadth to his thinking 
and his values? For three and one-half years he had slept 
cheek by jowl with all manner of men. Now he knew what 
it was to hunger and live on the ragged edge of poverty. 
Would the experience influence his dealings with the little 
brown men who had known poverty for centuries? Or would 
he try to climb back on his pedestal and expect the little 
brown men to support him once more in style to which the 
Tuan Besar for generations had been accustomed? I was 


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afraid many Tuans would try to resume the pedestals, with 
disastrous consequences to themselves and their colonial 
world. 

There had been exceptions among the Tuans. Some 
minds and hearts had expanded to such proportions as to 
transform their owners into enlightened human beings. But 
I was afraid their voices would not be heard in the clamor 
for guilders and dollars. 

Nor would the fault lie entirely with the colonials. Al- 
ready there were ominous signs from Indonesian extremists. 
Correspondents had told me that in Java the newly self- 
proclaimed Indonesian Republic was holding as hostages 
the Dutch internees who had spent the war looking forward 
to Allied liberation. The internees still were prisoners, but 
of the Indonesians. Having seen the Haihos I shuddered to 
think what they would do when under no restraint. They 
had all the makings of first class gangsters. 

Already it looked as if the liberation and the forces it had 
released would only breed more hates. 

I was glad I had met some good men, both white and 
dark, to remember when hate stoked the furnaces of dis- 
cord. 


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T he road back to life from the peculiar burial 
that was internment really began in Singapore. 
There I fattened up for a week at an army mess 
to which I was brought by Captain Gunnar Larson, the first 
American I met on arriving from prison camp. Larson was 
on hand again when I returned from digging up my diaries. 

“Come on,” he said, grabbing my arm and rushing me 
to a squat, stripped-down vehicle with the strange name 
)eep, “we’re going to the airport. You’ve got a plane ride 
to Calcutta.” 

My teeth rattled while the rolling box jolted along the 
airport road. I had been seeing Jeeps for a week but still 
they looked— and felt — unreal. 

Across the Bay of Bengal I flew to India. In Calcutta’s 
Great Eastern Hotel I met, by chance. Lieutenant Colonel 
B. C. Bowker, public relations officer for the party of John 
J. McCloy, then United States Assistant Secretary of War 
and later president of the International Bank for Recon- 
struction and Development, known as the World Bank. 
Bowker introduced me to McCloy who was flying around 
the world inspecting American war theaters. He offered to 
take me home. Few things could have pleased me more 
The trip would retrace the journey I had taken in the oppo 
site direction so long ago ... up through China, over to 
Japan and across the Pacific . . . and bring me home jusi 
six years after my departure. 


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We left Calcutta, flew over the green hell that is 
upper Burma, hopped The Hump to Kunming and went 
on to China's war time capital, Chungking. There I walked 
into the Press Hostel, rickety haven for correspondents, 
where I had stayed a few days in 1942 after escaping from 
Shanghai. Maurice Votaw, doyen of the place, gaped as at 
a ghost, saying, 

“You're dead, at least we thought you were." 

Hugh Baillie, president of United Press, was interviewing 
Chiang Kai-shek at the Generalissimo's residence where the 
McCloy party stopped overnight. 

“We had written you off," said Baillie. “After your folks 
received a P.O.W. card from you in 1943 we checked 
Tokyo through the International Red Cross and were in- 
formed that your name no longer was on the roster of 
internees in Sumatra. To us that meant you had died." 

“I'll sure enjoy reading my obituary," I said. 

Baillie laughed, and said, “You won't have any trouble 
finding it." 

We took off for Shanghai. As the mountains disappeared 
beneath us and we found ourselves above China's coastal 
plain, I spotted Lake Tai and the thin lines that were the 
railroad and highway across which Martin, Lee and I had 
escaped to Free China in the Christmas-New Year season 
of 1941-42. In Shanghai I was greeted again as a man from 
the grave. 

“It can't be you," said the priest who had loaned me his 
Christmas collection to finance our escape. “You were killed 
in Java." 

“It's my ghost," I said, “come to return your loan." 

Northward flew McCloy's plane over familiar country 
which first unrolled beneath my eyes from a passenger 
plane in 1941. Rivers, lakes and canals glistened in the great 
delta that is coastal China. In late afternoon we sighted 
China's northern mountains and soon were over the walled 
ramparts of majestic Peiping which lies just south of the 


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mountains at the edge of the plain. Instead of landing im- 
mediately at Peiping we continued on in order to wing 
along the Great Wall, following its endless writhings west- 
ward over barren, sunbaked mountains which stretch into 
infinity like burned, brown waves in a boundless sea. 

Hardly a better time of day could have been chosen for 
viewing that ancient Wonder of the World. A lowering 
sun in a bronze-blue sky etched in bold relief the desolate, 
windswept mountains that form a natural northern barrier 
to the China plains. The Wall twists along the very crest 
of the east-west chain, topping peaks, descending precipi- 
tous slopes and ascending cliff-like gradients. At intervals 
are lonely watch towers from which once might have sped 
arrows into besieging hordes. 

Parts of the wall have crumbled and look as though a 
man easily could climb over the rubble, but we saw few 
such places. The wall had been rebuilt and repaired through 
the centuries. Most of what we saw stands as firmly as when 
Shih Huang-ti began it 2,100 years ago. Even from our 
height the wall looked high, wide, massive, formidable. 
Occasionally, where it crosses the floors of narrow canyons 
or high defiles, are gates through which pass tortuous rib- 
bons that arc caravan trails. Through one gate a truck 
crowded a string of camels, outward bound. 

It has been said that China’s Great Wall is the only 
man-made thing on earth which could be seen from Mars. 
Only a few days previously, at the southern end of China, 
we had stood on the terminus of another man-made won- 
der— the incredible, 2,200 mile oil pipe line from Calcutta 
to Kunming. 

On that occasion the McCloy party had been driven from 
teeming Kunming to the quiet hillside that once was a 
Chinese cemetery and now held the tanks and valves mark- 
ing the end of the mighty line which stretched southward 
toward the canyons of The Hump and disappeared like an 
interminable snake wriggling through the hills. As we had 


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gazed on the line, thinking of what it represented, a mem- 
ber of our party, Dr. Douglas S. Freeman, Pulitzer Prize 
biographer of General Robert E. Lee, remarked, 

'This is an historic spot in the logistics of war.” 

I had wondered how long the line would last and for 
whom it would be used, if at all, now that the war which 
caused it was finished. 

At opposite ends of China man had wrought wonders 
with steel and stone. The Great Wall had been another 
historic landmark in the logistics of war. 

When the pipeline has disappeared so completely it no 
longer even is a footnote in China’s history, the Wall will 
still be there. And when the Wall is gone, consumed by 
Time, what will remain? The souls of the builders. 
Thoughts. Words. Only the non-material is permanent. If 
the Wall could talk would it weep or laugh at men who 
tried to keep other men behind a wall? 

After Peiping, Japan was our next stop. McCloy’s itiner- 
ary included an examination of Omori Camp on the shores 
of Yokohama Bay where Allied prisoners had suffered 
through the war. Now it held high ranking Japanese sched- 
uled for war crimes trials. Here, I thought as we entered, 
is my chance to inspect row on row of the kind of men 
who once inspected me. Obviously cleaned and repaired 
since Allied prisoners vacated, Omori was nearly empty 
and neat as a pin. Only twenty-four Japanese had been col- 
lected in it thus far and they were comfortably ensconced 
with mats and blankets in wooden barracks. The officer in 
charge said that the new Japanese prisoners were given 
exactly the same blankets and food that were given to 
Allied prisoners. 

"The only difference,” he said, "is that we keep the 
place clean.” 

Seated at a desk, writing, was a man of familiar figure 
and visage. A member of our party. Marine Corps Colonel 
Chauncey G. Parker, Jr., startled at meeting face to face 


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340 BY EASTERN WINDOWS 

the one man whom he had never expected to see, ex- 
claimed, 

“Tojo!” 

Japan's once supreme war lord and Premier, who vainly 
had attempted suicide and was now recovered, bowed his 
head slightly and replied, 

“Tojo! Yes!" 

General Homma of the Bataan Death March was there; 
and also General Kenji Doihara, that arch conspirator of 
North Ghina intrigue. 

“How does this compare with your Sumatra camps?” 
asked Lieutenant Golonel Bowker. 

“It is nearly a palace," I told him. 

At Eighth Army headquarters I saw my first American 
soldiers on parade since the Marines left Shanghai in 1941, 
just before the curtain fell on the white man's era in Ghina. 
While the band played “The Old Grey Mare," young men 
in khaki strode by, their arms swinging rhythmically, their 
feet in solid step, their helmeted heads high, and over them 
the colors flying. The thrill of pride as I watched was some- 
thing akin to the stir of patriotism on that Fourth of July, 
1942, in Palembang Jail when black-bearded Allen raised 
his tin cup and said, 

“Gentlemen, I give you the President of the United 
States of America. . . ." 

Almost everywhere the plane stopped along the way— 
Ghungking, Shanghai, Peiping— friends who had greeted 
me as one returned from the dead, in their next breath 
would tell me of some friend or acquaintance of pre-war 
days who was dead beyond doubt. It was the same in Tokyo. 
There I learned for certain that of the six correspondents 
who had remained in Java to cover the last days of fighting 
on that beleaguered island in March, 1942, only one sur- 
vived. Me. The fate of another I already knew because we 
had looked at death together and he lost. DeWitt Han- 
cock, of Associated Press, went down with the ship on 


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341 

which I was sunk in the Indian Ocean. The other four 
correspondents, three Englishmen and an Australian, simply 
disappeared when Java fell. 

As McCloy's plane flew from Tokyo to I wo Jima I 
thought of those correspondents who were not coming 
home. They were gone now, every one, along with Allen 
and Colijn and Father Bakker and all those others lying 
beneath the pepper trees of Bangka and the rubber trees 
of Sumatra. 

The plane landed at I wo Jima and in a little while I was 
standing where the Marines had raised the flag atop Mt. 
Suribachi, leaning into the stiff Pacific wind which whips 
eternally over that great pile of dead volcanic spew, and 
gazing over I wo Jima’s blood soaked desolation. So many 
others had died here too, thousands of them, American 
and Japanese. And this was only a little, sulphurous, surf 
beaten island ... a cinderous pin point in the war I had 
come East to cover and missed. I felt empty inside at hav- 
ing missed so much. Yet, with the emptiness there was an 
indefinable sense of fulfillment. A feeling of loss coupled 
with one of gain. As though a part of me had died giving 
birth to another life. 

I had been in a different kind of war, a battle of souls 
and minds instead of bullets and bombs. During the fight- 
ing I had explored the heart of my fellow man but, most 
important of all, I had searched my own soul and found 
myself. The missing years had not been a total loss. 

I felt that the Lord had been with me at various times 
and places of that circuit of the unfathomable which is 
Asia— from the day the Japanese occupied Shanghai to 
this moment standing on Suribachi's summit and wonder- 
ing how the Marines ever scaled it in the face of fire. 

I thought of Father Bakker 's request for a special prayer 
should I ever reach I wo Jima, so I said it while looking 
down on the ugliness of East Beach. The prayer was for 
him and for the Japanese, as he had asked. I added a few 


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342 

thanksgivings too . . . thanksgivings for the indomitable 
courage that took Marines up Suribachi's sides, and for 
another kind of courage that shone in such widely difFerent 
ways as— 

The words of the poem quoted by Churchill. 

The plea of Bishop Mekkelholt in behalf of a man 
I despised, ^‘Please give him the quinine, Mac. It is 
not for you or me to judge the value of a life.’* 

The request of a dying priest to pray for the men 
who killed him. 

As I gazed over battle-scarred Iwo Jima and thought of 
all it represented in the turbulent affairs of men, I realized 
what 1 had learned during the missing years— the only 
answer to war. Father Bakker and the Bishop had lived the 
answer, because they had lived the commandments: “Thou 
shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart and with 
thy whole soul and with thy whole mind . . . and . . . 
thy neighbor as thyself.” 

Conference tables and peace treaties and international 
covenants mean nothing as long as one man hates another. 
If I hate the Japanese because of what happened in Suma- 
tra, or if they hate me because my country crushed them, 
there can be no peace, only a truce. 

The first job is to stop hating. But hate does not cease 
because it is willed to cease. Something else just as solid 
and powerful has to push out hate and fill the place it 
occupied. That is the biggest and the hardest job— filling 
the vacancy with positive action. For the replacement must 
live and breathe and burn as fiercely for the good of man 
as does hate for his destruction. What shall we call the 
replacement? Christ called it love. 

If I can get on my knees tonight and, with a full heart, 
pray, 


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“God, please help Seki and his interpreter— and have 
mercy on To jo, too," 

Then my private battle against hate is half won. The 
other half will be continuing in this prayer every day. When 
all the men of all the earth do that for one another there 
will be no more war. And until they do, war is inevitable. 

There is no possible disarmament except in the hearts 
of men. 


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INDEX 


Ai Koku Koshin Kyoku, 70, 71 
“Air Corps Patriotic March,” 
Japanese, 70, 71 

Alacoque, Mother, 52-54 57, 135- 

137. 330 

Albert, Frenchman named, 189, 
190 

Ali, 286, 287, 292, 327 
Ali, Mrs., 292, 300 
Allen, W. Probyn, 3, 4, 7, 19, 42, 
48, 61, 63, 65, 71, 76, 92-94, 
99-105 passim, 120, 121, 158, 
1 71, 183, 272-274, 296, 297, 

327, 340 

Ambonese, the, 55, 13 1 ff. 
American Red Cross, the, 219 
Attenborough, Bill, 66, 124 
Aubrcy-Scott, E. M. C., 19 1, 192 

Baillie, Hugh, 337 
Bakker, Father Benedictus, 1-4, 7, 
9, 102, 104, 106, 200, 21 1, 250, 
252, 253, 31 1 ff., 327, 341, 342 
Bali, 1 17 
Balikpapan, 97 

Bangka Island, i, 136, 138, 145, 
158, 166, 203 
Ban^ta Straits, 156-166 
Bangka Tin Winning, 164, 19 1, 

193 

Banks, Dishwasher, 175 
Barracks Camp, 1 09 ff ., 1 20 ff., 

214, 330 

Barto, Petanahan farmer, 286 ff., 
326, 327 

Bcesley, Dr. Stephen H., 227, 228 
Beissel, Chief Cook, see von Gym- 
nich 

Belalau, 262-275, 276-302, 303 ff., 
313 ff.; at news of peace, 317- 
321, 322 ff. 


Bernhard, Prince, birthday of, 99 
Boerma, A. P. A., 1 71-173, 208 
Bolle, Indo-European named, 277 
Boswell, Norman, 178 
Bouma, Monsignor, 200, 313, 327 
Bowdon, Vivien Gordon, 162 
Bowker, Lt. Col. B. G., 336, 340 
Breet, Anton, 278 
Breuer, Max, 195, 278, 292, 293 
Brinker, Old, 1-9 passim, 14, 252, 
.?54 

British, the, prisoner mortality rate 
of, 322, 323 

Bryant, George, 238, 240 
Buchanan, Indo-Euroj>ean oil 
worker named, 235 
Bukum Island, 141 
Bullwinkle, Vivian, 154, 164 
“Bunny,” 207, 208 
Buridge, Mr. and Mrs., 14 1, 146, 

153. 154 

Burt, Gordon, 27, 28, 31, 43-45, 
65, 87, 88, 257 

Calcutta, India, 336 

“Camp News,” 80-82, 85 ff., 105, 

i 34 » 331 

Carruthers, Andrew, 124, 320, 321, 

327 

Carruthers, Mrs. Andrew, 320, 321 
Charitas, 49 ff., 135, 330 
Chinese, the, in Palembang, 131, 
132; paratrooper, 321 
Christie, Canadian named, 65, 66, 
124, 180 

Christmas, 1941, ii; 1942, 97, 98, 
100-106, 254; 1943, 179, 253; 
1944, i-ii, 14, 15, 252 ff., 313 
Chungking, 13, 337 
Churchill, Winston, 31 1 ff., 324, 

342 


345 


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346 

Clark, Knobby, 104 
Coliju, Anton H., 60, 97, too, loi, 
103, 258, 259, 296, 297 
Colijn, Alette, 96-98, loi, 10^, 

324 

Colijn, Antoinette, 96-98, 101, 
103, 263, 324 

Colijn, Helen, 96-98, loi, 103, 324 
Colombo, Ceylon, paratroopers 
from, 321, 322 

Coltharp, Col. C. A., 330-333 
Congregation of the Sacred Hearts 
of Jesus and Mary, 200 
Coolies, Chinese, 163 
Crumpet, man called, 240, 241 
Curran-Sharp, 35, 36, 41, 61, 66, 
86, too, 257, 297 
Curran-Sharp, Mrs., 135, 257 
Cynic, The, 243, 246, 247 

Damien, Father, of Molokai, 200 
de Bruyn, E. E., 218, 330 
de Groot, Peter, 190, 212, 213, 305 
de Jong, Roel, 123, 269, 270 
de Mey, Controleur, 66, 67 
de Raat, Controleur, 67, 166, 170, 
176, 219, 220 
Deering, John, 226-228 
Dogs, 1 13, 1 14, 1 17 
Doihara, General Kenji, 340 
Donnelly, Australian jockey, 103 
Drysdale, J., 79, 86, 114, 115, 141, 
168, 232, 257, 304 
Dutch, the, 133 ff., 212, 322; para- 
troopers, 321, 322 
Dutch War Crimes tribunal, 329 n. 
Dyken, planter named, 32 

Earle, R. E., 172, 173 
Elling, Father, 30, 31, 58, 60, 61, 
99, 102, 179, 183, 250, 253, 

328, 330 

Enright, tin miner named, 250 
“Evangeline,” 77-79, 94 
Everstijn, 99 

Fawkes, Guy, 91-94, 222 
Flash, seaman nicknamed, 209-2 1 2 


INDEX 

Fourth of July, the, 99, 296, 297 
Fox, the flying, 125 
Francken, Officer, 5, 15 
Freeman, Dr. Douglas S., 339 

Gani, Dr. A. K., 49 
George, King, birthday of, 99 
Germann, Eric, 10, ii, 14, 41, 65, 

99, 100, 124, 139, I , J-155, 164, 
180, 2 1 0-2 1 2, 218, 252, 255, 
264, 290, 295, 296, 303-310, 
318, 319, 327, 328 

Geroms, Dutch banker, 133, 134 
Geursens, G. J., 255 
Giang Bee, the, 156(1. 

Gillbrook, Preacher, 21 1 
Goldberg-Curth, Dr., 54 
Gow, the, 208, 209 
Great Wall, China’s, 338, 339 
Grixoni, Englishman named, 204, 
205 

Haihos, 188, 194, 264, 269, 277(1., 
304(1., 317, 335 

Hakkenberg, Regimental Sergeant- 
Major, 321 n. 

Hals, patient called, 238-240 
Hamilcar, man called, 243-245 
Hammet, H. G., 60, 115, 212, 228, 
257, 274 

Hancock, De Witt, 340 
Harley-Clark, H., 49, 1 20-1 23 
Harrison, G. P., 172-174, 177, 178, 
180, 222, 232, 258, 314, 315 
Hasegawa, Dr., 255 
Haugland, Vem, 329 
Hildebrand, Burgomaster, 99 
Hilling, hospital bookkeeper, 302, 

304 

Hinch, Mrs. Gertrude B., 323 
Hirohito, Emperor, birthday cele- 
bration for, 19 1 
“Hold That Tiger,” 68 
Hollanders, the, in Palembang, 131 
Hollweg, Dr., 33, 34, 41, 49, 51, 56, 

100, 120, 170-172, 176, 222, 
246, 258, 273, 297 

Holscher, 35 


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INDEX 


347 


Homma, General, 340 
Hori, Tomokazu, 51 

Indian Ocean, the, 107 
Indonesians, 134, 188, 192, 325, 
335 

Iwo Jima, 313, 314, 341, 342 

Japanese, the, compared to ants, 
73-75; Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde 
personality of, 153; propa- 
ganda, 266 ff. 

Jardine & Matheson, 159 
Java, 21 

Javanese, the, 133, 261, 325 ff. 
JehoSy 302 
Jones, J. F., 135 

Juliana, Princess, birthday of, 99 

Kamakura, 62, 63 

Kamphuis, Police Commissioner, 

137 

Kampschuur, Dr. W., 222, 254, 
270, 327 

Karloff, Boris, 123, 258 
Karman, 292 
Karman, Mrs., 292, 293 
Kasai, Lt. Gen. H., 13 1 
Kempeitai, the, 13 1 ff., 277, 302 
Kendall, H. P., 158, 177, 180, 232, 

245. 327 

Kingsley, soldier named, 146, 153, 
154, 164 

Koopal, ward attendant, 179, 180 
Koot, Nick, 68, 134, 190, 2^, 270, 

331 

Kramer, Dr. H. P., 222, 238, 239, 
270 

Lang, Lt. Col., 160-162 
Langdon, Lt. E. P. C., 157, 158 
Larson, Capt. Gunnar, 336 
Laurentia, Mother, loi, 323 
Lawson, Harold, 85, 124, 271, 272 
Lee, Francis, ii, 107, 182 
Lentze, Dr. P. E., 217, 221, 222, 
237. 255-258, 260, 314 
Li Tai Sun, 332, 333 


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Li Woy the, 159, 160 
Lloyd, Vyner-Brooke crew mem- 
ber, 154, 328 

Loeboek Linggau, 261, 277 
Louhenapessie, an Ambonese 
named, 198, 199, 215, 278 
Lubblik-Weddik, Indo-European 
named, 133, 136, 137 

Magnay, 124 
Maier, Resident, 137 
Mandang, native of Celebes is- 
lands, 278 ff., 293-302, 306 
Mangoen, 294, 300, 301, 31:5 
Mane, Eurasian hairdresser, 143, 
t44, 146 

Manung, Australian named, 124 
Martin, Jimmy, 157 
Martin, Pepper, ii, 12, 107, 182 
Mason, H. E. M., 159 
Mata Hari, the, 14 1, 162, 163 
Maurice, rubber planter named, 
206-208 

McCann, R. L., 159, 160 
McCloy John J., 336 ff 
McDoug.ill, William H., Jr, his 
private miracle, 107, 108; his 
bedroom and morgue, 1 71-174 
Mehitabel, the cat, 121, 122, 193 
Mekkelholt, Bishop H. M., 26, 32, 
49. 50. 52, 55. 56, 137. 200, 216, 
222-224, 253, 255, 258, 291, 
292, 296, 315, 316, 327, 328, 

330. 342 

Menadonese, the, 136 
Mitbo, Vincent, 249, 250 
Moesi River, the, 21, 138, 158 
Mt. Suribachi, 341, 342 
Muntok, Bangka Island, i, 138, 

145. 153. 165 

Muntok Prison, 1-15, 138, 153, 
163-166, 167-174, 18711., 197, 
203 ff., 214 ff., 228 ff., 276, 327, 
328 

Myndersma, Resident, 137 
Napoleon, 63 

New Charitas, see Charitas 


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INDEX 


348 

New Year’s, 1942, 182, 183; 1943, 
106, 107; 1944, 180-182; 1945, 
255; sacred to the Japanese, 
182 

“O Great Pacific,” chanty, 68-71 
Old Charitas, see Charitas 
Omori Camp, 339 
“Onward, Christian Soldiers," 249 
Oosten, W. H., 59, 97, too, 217, 
219, 221, 257, 274, 296, 330, 

33* 

Oranje, Resident of Palembang, 
99, 116, 117, 133, 134. * 72 . 2 * 7 . 
261 

Palembang, 13, 21, 49, 50, 95, 131, 
132, 158, 2fo, 329, 330 
Palembang Jail, 13, 16 ff., 25®., 
37 ff., 58 ff., 76^4, 98 ff., 164, 
214, 296,327 
Pangkal Pinang, 172 
Pangkal Pinang Jail, 191, 192, 200 
Pangkal Pinangers, 191 ff. 

Parker, Col. Chaimcey G., Jr., 339 
Paula, Sister, 54 

“Peanut,” Japanese Commandant 
nicknamed, 168, 180, 190 
Peiping, 337, 338 
Pennanen, Lt. V. W., 33^33 
Penryce, chairman of British com- 
mittee, 85-87, 99, 1 13 
Petanahan, 285, 286, 292, 294, 
297-302, 303, 326 
Phillips, M. L., 170, 327 
Pladjoe, 50, 

Pop, Matron, 45-47, 228-232 
Pratt, D. F., 123, 258 
Pratt, William Henry, 123 
Prince of Wales, the, 159 

Quinn, John, 124, 13d 

Radi, Petanahan farmer, 286 ff., 
326, 327 

Red Cross, the International, 137, 
138; the American, 219 
Reed, J. G., 163, 164 


Repulse, the 159 

Richardus, Dutch brother named, 
250, 251 

Roberts, W. R., 164 
Rolffs, Oom Piet (Uncle Peter), 
249, 250 

“Roll Out the Barrel,” 68 
Rombeek, Jan, 80 
Ronkes-Agerbeek, Th. J. A., 81, 

92 

Salvation Army, the, 249 
“Say Not the Struggle Naught 
Availeth,” 3 1 1 

Schoorel, oil man named, 330, 33 1 
Scott, Robert H., 156-158 
Sedgeman, Ginger, 144-148, 152 
Seki, Captain, 198-202, 254, 255, 
258, 262, 264, 265, 268, 270, 
277, 289, 293, 309, 310, 317, 
318, 3290. 

Sesuki, 269 

Shanghai, China, 11, 12, 337 
“Sheik of Araby, The,” 68, 71 
Shell Oil refinery, 330, 334 
Shell Oil technicians, no 
Singapore, China, 140, 156, 328, 

329. 336 

Sisters of Charity, the Dutch, 49 
Sitanala, Ambonese named, 278- 
302 passim 

Smallwood, Herbert, 42, 43, 118, 
232-234, 297 
Smit, 302, 317 
Smuggling, 276 ff. 

Soengei Gcrong, 50 
Soengei Liat, 136 
Stammershaus, of Lahat, 137 
Standard Oil refinery, 330, 334 
Standard Oil technicians, no 
Stegeman, 302, 317 
Suet, Chinese officer, 321 n. 
Sumatra, 13, 21, 39, in, 131, 158, 
258, 334 

Suribachi, Mount, 341, 342 

Tai Hei Yo (O Great Pacific), 
68-70 



INDEX 


Tani, Sergeant, 264-268, 317 
Tekelenburg, Surgeon Peter, 54- 
57, 135, 136 

Tempelers, Indo-European named, 
199, 278-302 passim 
Terang Boelan, 123 
Thomson, Tommy, 21 1, 221, 222, 
232, 302 
Tojo, 340 
Tokyo, II, 154 
Tokyo time, 108 
Treumiet, Mike, 180, 181, 218 
Trouper, the, 237, 238 
Twins, the, 76, 79 

Ubi raiding, 303-310 
Underground, alleged Dutch, 

133 ff- 

United Press, the, 137, 314 n. 

Utah State Prison, 226 

van Asbeck, H., 115, 117, 219, 

257, 310 

van der Bergh, Piet, 256 
van der Vliet, Controleur D. J. A., 
85, 86, 99, 100, 1 13, 1 14, 216, 
296, 297 

van der Vossen, J. A. M., 270 
van Gisbergen, Father P. H., 169, 
266, 268, 330 

van Hasselt, Sergeant, 321 n. 
van Hutten, Indo-European oil 
worker named, 234, 235 
van Thiel, Father, 9, 239 
Veer, of Tandjong Karang, 137 
von Bethmann-Hollweg, Theobald, 
34 


349 

von Gymnich, Beissel, 3, 4, 62, 79, 
82, 99, 100, 104, 1 17, 1 18, 195, 
196, 216, 296, 297 
von Woerkom, William, 171 
Votaw, Maurice, 337 
Vyner-Brooke, the S.S., 140 ff., 
156 

Walter, of Tandjong Enim, 137 
Wardle, Rev. A. V., 60, 102, 103, 
241 

Warmen, Mischa, 143, 146, ,3 

Warmen, Mrs., 143, 146, 153 
Watson, magistrate from Malaya, 
146, 148, 152 

Wayman, Dorothy G., 68, 70 
Wembley-Smythe, 61-65, 

126-130, 195, 196, 241-243 
West, G. F. (Paddy), 35, 41, . , 
50-57 poisim, 79, 91, 100, III, 
123, 141, 163-165, 169-173. 
177-184 passim, 188, 192, 

204 fl., 216, 217, 232, 236, 250, 
257, 296, 297, 328 
Whiteing, Percy, 73 
Whitey, 123 

Wilhelm, Corps Officer, 321 n. 
Wilhelmina, Queen, 312, 313, 

314 n., 319; birthday of, 98, 276 
Wilkinson, Capt. Tom, 159, ifio 
Wilson, New Zealander named, 
120, 122 

Women’s Camp, 95-98, 106, 202, 
253 ff., 280, 281, 323, 324 

Ziescl, Dr., 54, 55, 57, 133, 136 


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